A Mountain Horse Solutions team, including UK-based Digital Concepts Engineering and tpgroup, has been awarded a nine-month contract to develop and demonstrate fully-autonomous targets for the US Air Force (USAF).

The targets are intended to simulate convoys of multiple types of vehicles moving at speed to provide pilots with realistic targets for strike training and munition capability assessments.

Mountain Horse Solutions president Bill Allen said: “Our joint team brings incredible expertise, knowledge, and experience in automotive autonomy to the USAF project.

“Together, we’re introducing game-changing technology that has potential cost-effective benefits in how training realism takes place for combat pilots, ensuring the USAF maintains its surveillance, targeting, and lethality advantage over our adversaries.”

Digital Concepts Engineering (DCE) is providing its Marionette system, that has been used to create a robotic Warrior infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) for the British Army. tpgroup is providing its path planning software.

Digital Concepts Engineering director Lionel Nierop said: “We have already demonstrated our technology on the UK’s Warrior Armoured Vehicle, showing that our Marionette ‘toolkit’ can convert any vehicle to autonomous use quickly and cost-effectively.

“Our team has the capability to provide fleets of military vehicles converted to autonomous use for the USAF to conduct their training.”

The demonstration has the potential to be converted into a long-term contract to supply the USAF with autonomous targets.

tpgroup head of autonomy John Shimell said: “The challenge with this project is that the autonomous targets have to function in a GPS denied environment.

“Our team has a very innovative way of achieving this and the USAF clearly saw the benefit in our proposal. We’re very excited to demonstrate to the USAF the full capability that our joint team brings.”

Both of the technologies supplied by the UK companies are commercially proven but are being modified to meet USAF requirements. The contract marks DCE’s first overseas contract.

Under the agreement, the prototype target will be demonstrated in Spring 2021.