The world of global security accelerates every day as emerging threats like drone swarms evolve at the speed of commercial development. The Department of Defense (DoD) recently released a Counter-Small Unmanned Aerial System strategy, identifying the need for the Joint Force to keep pace with a constantly changing problem. And what’s more — every U.S. soldier may become a trained drone fighter, according to new training objectives outlined.
To combat these challenges at hand, Lockheed Martin has rapidly developed MORFIUS™ — a counter-swarm solution — to respond effectively across land, sea and air domains and a variety of scenarios autonomously, empowering the warfighter to stay focused on their mission while being protected.
MORFIUS is a Counter-Unmanned Aerial System (C-UAS) interceptor that responds to urgent and emerging threats as a joint force player in a layered defense, and within existing and future command and control system architectures. Engineered with decades of expertise in high-powered microwave (HPM) technology, MORFIUS is the leading compact airborne HPM system built to combat drones and drone swarms. It’s capable of simultaneously defeating multiple threats in a single defensive attack and can combat swarming technology.
Designed with the expeditionary force in mind
MORFIUS is built to launch from fixed or mobile platforms, including ground vehicles, air vehicles and vessels, readily supporting On-The-Move (OTM) scenarios. Open interfaces and the ability to use OTM sensors has enabled MORFIUS to quickly integrate into command and control systems across the services, facilitating a clear and connected response from the mission’s joint team.
“We’ve focused on implementing agile development processes, which have allowed us to integrate MORFIUS into new command and control systems within weeks,” said Charley Brown, Lockheed Martin Director of Integrated Air and Missile Defense Advanced Programs. “We’ve got a robust small business and commercial industry team that helps us continually rise to this challenge alongside our engineers. We’re very proud of the team we’ve assembled and continue to acknowledge the critical contributions of our partners to help enable this capability.”
MORFIUS leverages technologies from a team of nontraditional businesses, including the ALTIUS airframe from Area-I, Inc. Area-I worked with Lockheed Martin to integrate the HPM payload and adapt the ALTIUS airframe, avionics and software to the C-UAS mission.
“We are excited to work collaboratively with the Lockheed Martin Advanced Programs team on their C-UAS efforts,” said Dr. Nick Alley, Area-I CEO. “The breadth of platforms from which it can be launched, coupled with its unique and capable payload, make MORFIUS a real discriminator against what we’ve seen in the market.”
The ALTIUS airframe is unique in the range of vehicles it can be launched from, which enables MORFIUS commonality across multiple domains and services. The ability to launch from fixed- or rotary-wing platforms and ground or sea vehicles will enable inter-operability in future joint defense operations and highlights how MORFIUS will maintain operational relevance across current and future threat landscapes.
“We recently moved into our new 44,000 square-foot engineering and production facility, which we’re looking forward to leveraging in support of these efforts – and other DoD activities that use the ALTIUS,” said Alley. “Having a common platform that has routinely demonstrated it can be launched from C-130s, UAS, helicopters and expeditionary ground vehicles, brings a powerful capability to all defense services.”
“The team has proven their ability to quickly adapt to new architectures or configuration requirements to meet customer needs,” said Rebecca Schwartz, Lockheed Martin C-UAS business development lead. “The C-UAS landscape is constantly and rapidly evolving, so adaptability and flexibility, while maintaining effectiveness against new threats is critical. Focusing on a system of systems approach that brings together a modular set of solutions will help enable this without being costly as upgrades are needed. With this in mind, we built MORFIUS to be a plug-and-play capability to easily integrate into a variety of end-to-end systems.”
MORFIUS’s compact airborne system provides extended range and carries an onboard seeker to help relieve sensor requirements for expeditionary systems, allowing it to be compatible with the various DoD service architectures.
“While ground-based systems are limited in range because they are fixed, MORFIUS has the ability to fly out to the threat and extend those capabilities to significantly farther ranges— eliminating the threat away from friendly forces,” said Schwartz. “This becomes more critical when we think of counter-swarms and limited response times.”
MORFIUS’ integrated system has been matured and tested over several years and Lockheed Martin continues to prove its performance and capability along with third-party validations. Its ability to defeat multiple targets in one defensive attack, be recovered and reused over and over, makes this system a force multiplier.
Proven record of success
At its core, MORFIUS’ compact HPM source has gone through rigorous testing with more than ten years of experience and test data behind it. When this source is integrated with the modified ALTIUS platform, the resulting MORFIUS system has a proven record of successfully defeating targets in labs and flight tests.
While the team continues to evaluate configurations that are being explored by the DoD, MORFIUS has completed more than 15 test events since 2018 and has more upcoming tests to demonstrate end-to-end capability.
“We're looking forward to the opportunity to put this in the field and in the hands of our warfighters so they can assess the capabilities and give us feedback. End-user feedback is critical and allows us to continue refining the capability in the right direction,” Schwartz said. “We recognize the challenge our warfighters are facing and understand the importance of speed. It’s our mission to support them and we believe in our ability to be their partner in solving this problem.”
Part of the joint challenge with threat UAS technology is the speed at which it can innovate, thanks to its commercial backing. This speed poses a risk to all services and places a critical demand on the defense industry to innovate platforms and systems rapidly.
“I think MORFIUS is just the beginning. The C-UAS challenge isn’t going away and what we've done with MORFIUS allows it to maintain its relevance and be enduring into the future,” said Schwartz. “MORFIUS, and the platform it’s built on, continue progressing in support of adaptive missions and collaborative swarms. We will continue responding to customer needs and help them identify when there are opportunities to take advantage of the capability we’ve developed beyond just C-UAS.”
Other variants, including multi-rotor, are in development to provide a full range of C-UAS capabilities and a MORFIUS family of systems.
The ability to bring to bear the defense industry’s legacy technology and experience with commercial speed and adaptability is a game changer for combating these emerging threats. Lockheed Martin looks forward to becoming part of the DoD’s enduring solutions — like the U.S. Army’s M-SHORAD and other defense programs of record — and demonstrating the difference MORFIUS can make on the battlefield for our warfighters.