Testing the U.S. Army conducted in June proved that equipping an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for an airborne electronic attack role is “technically and tactically feasible.” The service will continue experimenting with the system, although it has no immediate plans to field it on a UAS.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) conducted the first flight of its Predator XP remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) on June 27 at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground range complex in Arizona. The Predator XP is an unarmed export version of the iconic RPA.
Call it a UAV (unmanned air vehicle) or an RPA (remotely piloted aircraft), the unmanned aircraft has become an integral part of the operations of many air forces, navies and armies around the world. Despite the issues associated with integrating UAV operations into non-segregated airspace, the unmanned aircraft has become a vital tool for performing “dull, dirty and dangerous” missions such as persistent ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance).
U.S. government and industry testers plan to begin data-gathering flights later this year using a system that will address perhaps the biggest technological hurdle to widespread use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)–the ability of a remotely piloted vehicle to “detect and avoid” (DAA) other aircraft. At the same time, a special committee convened by standards organization RTCA is working toward delivering DAA equipment standards by July 2016.
The latest generation of the “Gorgon Stare” wide-area surveillance system has reached initial operational capability (IOC) in Afghanistan, lead contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) announced on July 1. Fitted to a General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft, the system is providing the U.S. Air Force’s only operational capability for day/night persistent wide-area motion imagery, the company said.
Airbus Defence & Space (D&S), Alenia and Dassault Aviation have proposed a Project Definition (PD) study for a future European medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV to the governments of France, Germany and Italy. At the same time, however, Airbus D&S may be working with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to develop what it describes as “bridging solution” for the German armed forces, using the Heron TP. Meanwhile, General Atomics–Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) is quietly confident that Germany may join the European “Reaper Club” that already comprises France, Italy and the UK as members.
The U.S. Navy released a draft request for proposal (RFP) for the unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike system (UClass) air segment to four contractors on April 17. The service expects to release a final RFP later this year.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) recently reported on a second flying demonstration of an MQ-9 Reaper in the electronic warfare (EW) role. The UAV flew with the Northrop Grumman Pandora EW system inside special pods designed by GA-ASI. The combination flew from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., last April and again in October during a Marine Corps exercise.
A General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper crashed into Lake Ontario November 13 after a satellite link to the drone failed. The Reaper was being operated by the 174th Attack Wing from Wheeler Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum, N.Y., in military controlled airspace above 18,000 feet when control was lost. Another drone, an MQ-1B Predator, crashed at Holloman AFB New Mexico a month ago.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) said that an improved version of the Gray Eagle UAV flew for 45.3 hours on a demonstration flight earlier this month. The Gray Eagle was developed for the U.S. Army from the Predator UAS. The Improved Gray Eagle is a higher-power, higher-mtow version that GA-ASI developed using company funds, although the U.S. Army paid for the demo flight, the first of two planned by the end of the year.
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