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Anduril, White House Meet on Ukraine

Anduril Industries this month joined with White House officials and other key defense tech startups, to discuss greater use of new and innovative technologies in Ukraine’s war against Russian invaders.

National Security Council officials met with executives from Costa Mesa-based Anduril, Palantir Technologies (NYSE: PLTR), Fortem Aerospace, drone maker Skydio and other defense companies on Jan. 8 to discuss battlefield technologies.

The National Security Council aides spent several hours with more than a dozen companies in the defense, tech and venture capital industries to talk about how the U.S. might be able to provide additional assistance to Kyiv, a senior administration told news agencies including Bloomberg.

The meeting, arranged by national security advisor Jake Sullivan, comes as President Joe Biden has been seeking to coerce a fractured Congress into providing $61 billion in aid for Ukraine.

“We can confirm our participation in this meeting,” an Anduril spokesperson told the Business Journal on Jan. 17.

The spokesperson said the meeting guidelines barred the disclosure of additional details; a Bloomberg report said that “de-mining technologies, unmanned aerial systems, and other products to counter Russian use of drones and other weapons systems” were discussed.

The Biden administration wants to support Ukraine’s access to “cutting-edge” U.S. equipment, senior administration officials told Reuters.

Bitter Fighting

Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine nearly two years ago, on Feb. 24, 2022, leading to bitter fighting and devastating losses for both sides.

Anduril founder Palmer Luckey had already sketched out a few of the company’s innovations in Ukraine in a talk with reporters at company headquarters in November.

He said the company’s Ghost drones “are in Ukraine and have been there since near the very, very start,” while the company’s airborne-fired Altius drone “represents a component of what we’ve been sending there.”

“Anduril has had people in country frequently helping Ukrainians learn how to use these systems and learning from some of the Russian efforts to thwart our systems,” according to Luckey.

He said he started talking to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “before the war” to potentially help secure Ukraine’s eastern border.

“I have an affinity for the guy.”

Resisting Russia

The goal of the recent meeting, officials said, is to ready the U.S. defense industrial base for both Kyiv’s immediate needs and any future conflicts or crucial areas.

“The conversation focused on a number of systems, including, unmanned aerial systems, how to counter incoming unmanned aerial systems, and then also addressing the de-mining challenge,” one of the officials told a group of reporters during a telephone call following the five-hour meeting.

The meeting sought to push for a “renewed emphasis on helping Ukraine overcome these key technological challenges that they have identified as inhibiting their progress and momentum on the battlefield,” an administration official told Reuters.

In its latest major development, Anduril in November introduced a reusable, jet-powered flying interceptor that the company believes could revolutionize how the U.S. and its allies defend against “a new class of threats” that includes increasing numbers of hostile drones, cruise missiles and other airborne invaders.

The new product is called Roadrunner, and the “autonomous air vehicle” features vertical takeoff and landing capabilities.

As of November, the U.S. government was the only customer for the warhead-loaded version of the product, called Roadrunner-M (Munition).

The relatively low-cost, unmanned Roadrunner can observe or down a flying threat and then, if not detonated, return to a mobile base—unlike standard munitions that once launched are designed to blow up the flying invader and themselves.

Air Force Pact

In other defense news for Anduril, the company last week said it was chosen by the U.S. Air Force as one of five companies to develop fighter-like drones that will accompany manned combat aircraft.

The Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) is the service branch’s “flagship autonomous aircraft program.”

Anduril said it is “the only non-traditional defense company selected to be a part of the CCA program.”

Along with Anduril, “Boeing and Northrop Grumman have also confirmed their selection for the CCA effort. General Atomics and Lockheed Martin have also reportedly been chosen, but have not yet confirmed,” website Flight Global reported.

The CCA drones are expected to serve as “robotic wingmen” for future fighter jets and other manned aircraft.

Air Force Pact

In other defense news for Anduril, the company last week said it was chosen by the U.S. Air Force as one of five companies to develop fighter-like drones that will accompany manned combat aircraft. The Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) is the service branch’s “flagship autonomous aircraft program.”

Anduril said it is “the only nontraditional defense company selected to be a part of the CCA program.”

Along with Anduril, “Boeing and Northrop Grumman have also confirmed their selection for the CCA effort. General Atomics and Lockheed Martin have also reportedly been chosen, but have not yet confirmed,” website Flight Global reported.

The CCA drones are expected to serve as “robotic wingmen” for future fighter jets and other manned aircraft.

US Army Using Anduril’s Altius Drone

The U.S. Army is moving forward in a key phase of development for Anduril Industries’ Altius 700, a small but potent drone launched by manned aircraft in flight.

Military officials said Dec. 22 they had carried out a successful two-flight demonstration involving the first launch of Altius 700, marking a “significant milestone” in the drone’s development, and in the Army’s ‘Launched Effects’ program.

Launched effects “will bring a critical capability to the Army with advanced teaming between crewed and uncrewed systems to detect, identify, locate and report pacing threats in contested environments,” the Army said.

The prototype demonstration used a Black Hawk helicopter as the launch platform for the tube-fired drone.

“The two-flight demonstration yielded positive data that validates the Altius 700’s performance capabilities across all phases of operation, encompassing launch, flight, landing and recovery,” the Army said.

A “rapid fielding decision” for using the system is scheduled for 2025.

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