TechGerman-made Luna ng drone elevates Ukraine's real-time reconnaissance

German-made Luna ng drone elevates Ukraine's real-time reconnaissance

Reconnaissance drone LUNA NG
Reconnaissance drone LUNA NG
Images source: © Licensor | MACIEJ_HYPS

21 June 2024 09:42

Operational experience gained from the current course of the war in Ukraine highlights the crucial role of real-time data transmission from reconnaissance assets to command posts. With this requirement in mind, the German company Rheinmetall designed the next-generation LUNA NG (Luftgestützte Unbemannte NahaufklärungsAusstattung der Nächsten Generation) reconnaissance unmanned aerial system.

Thanks to its refined aerodynamic design and lightweight build, LUNA NG can operate for up to 12 hours and reach an altitude of around 5,000 metres. The airframe is made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic. LUNA NG has a range of 150 kilometres in its basic version, but this can be extended to about 500 kilometres using a satellite data link. The drone can fly entirely autonomously on a pre-programmed route or be manually controlled by an operator.

During a single mission, LUNA NG can inspect an area of 30,000 square kilometres in standard configuration. The aircraft is powered by a two-stroke combustion engine. To make detection more difficult and reduce the acoustic signature, LUNA NG can switch to gliding with the engine off at certain moments and turn the engine back on once it has moved away from a threat area.

A vertical take-off version was presented at ILA.
A vertical take-off version was presented at ILA.© Licensor | MACIEJ_HYPS

The aircraft is launched from a foldable catapult and can land using a controlled flight into a deployed net or by parachute. One aircraft, along with the catapult and control station, can be transported on a MAN HX truck, but if needed, it can also be transported in a helicopter cabin. A single system includes five drones, two control stations, two launch catapults, two communication masts, and a workshop. The entire setup is installed on three trucks. A vertical take-off variant was also presented during the ILA exhibition.

The fuselage, in two compartments, can be fitted with reconnaissance sensors weighing up to 30 kilograms. The primary reconnaissance equipment consists of optoelectronic heads operating in both visible and infrared light spectrums. Additionally, acoustic sensors or spectrum analysis sensors can be installed. The drone can also be used as a mobile communication node, equipped with antennas for transmitting radio or cellular communications. The equipment can also include a mobile phone locator using IMEI tracking technology.

Despite the real-time reconnaissance data transmission, wartime experiences have shown the need to shorten the chain of command further to open fire. Thus, at the ILA 2024 fair, a modified drone with weapon-carrying capability was presented. Under its wings, it can carry RGB 10 (Rheinmetall Gliding Bomb 10) gliding bombs. This is a demonstrator of ammunition technology that is still in development. The bomb weighs approximately 10 kilograms, and its declared range is 5 to 10 kilometres, depending on the drop height. To reduce the radar signature, a specially angular fuselage shape was used. The warhead and guidance system are still being refined, and the manufacturer hopes to secure funding for this purpose from the European Union.

LUNA NG can carry RGB 10 glide bombs under its wings.
LUNA NG can carry RGB 10 glide bombs under its wings.© Licensor | MACIEJ_HYPS

In 2023, the manufacturer, through the German government, delivered such a system to Ukraine, not only to enhance the reconnaissance capabilities of the defending country but also primarily to conduct realistic tests under combat conditions and make any necessary improvements to the design before starting mass production. The tests were successful, and later that same year, the system was ordered by the German armed forces. In the Bundeswehr, LUNA NG will be named Husar. The order comprises thirteen systems, including the necessary equipment. The contract is worth 200 million euros, and the first unit is scheduled for delivery in the second quarter of 2025. The Husar systems will be assigned to reconnaissance and artillery units.

The primary means of identification is an electro-optical head located under the fuselage.
The primary means of identification is an electro-optical head located under the fuselage.© Licensor | MACIEJ_HYPS
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