Northrop Grumman unveiled a new optionally piloted vehicle in the medium-altitude, long-endurance (Male) class, which is currently dominated by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems with its Predator/Reaper series. The Firebird will fly in piloted and multisensor configuration later this month at Empire Challenge 2011, a military intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) exercise hosted by the U.S.
In a significant move, the U.S. government has cleared an unarmed version of the Predator UAV for wider export, including to the Middle East. Until now, the Predator and Reaper series has been exported only to the UK and Italy, and offered to a few other U.S. allies. Long-endurance UAVs are included in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MCTR), a voluntary 34-nation agreement.
The U.S. Air Force is wresting with the manpower, training and cultural issues that surround the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In his presentation to the Dubai International Air Chiefs Conference (DIAC) last November,* USAF commander General Norton Schwartz outlined the new terminology and career fields that the service is introducing in response.
How much more performance can be extracted from the King Air twin turboprop to satisfy surveillance requirements? The latest Model 350ER offers almost double the range and payload of the early King Airs, first flown more than 40 years ago. But in a quest to offer short-field performance from hot-and-high airfields, Hawker Beechcraft Corp.
The stealthy, jet-powered version of the Predator series UAV that was unveiled last month was developed “with significant company investment,” according to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI). Tom Cassidy, president of GA-ASI’s aircraft systems group, again sought to contrast the company’s lean and independent development model with that of the major aerospace companies.
Raytheon is displaying here at Farnborough its universal control station (UCS) for UAVs. It is the first time the station is showing at an international venue.
The company claims that the UCS could dramatically reduce the accident rates of unmanned systems, as well as the cost to train operators. In particular, Raytheon wants to replace the ground stations provided by General Atomics for the control of the Predator and Reaper UAVs.
L-3 Communications (Hall 4 Stand 18, Chalet A16-18) is showing a new, handheld version of the Rover device that has rapidly become essential kit for allied ground troops directing airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan. The company has already delivered some 4,000 of the previous, laptop-size Rover 3 and 4 versions, which display video feeds from various airborne platforms.
Two General Atomics Sky Warrior UAVs have been operating in Iraq since late April, well ahead of the drone’s formal system design and development (SDD) schedule. The Sky Warrior, a new version of the Predator-A, won the U.S. Army’s extended-range/multipurpose (ER/MP) competition. The substantial changes include a Thielert heavy-fuel engine, an autoland system and an improved, more mobile ground station.
Raytheon has sold a Predator Operations Center to the U.S. Air National Guard, which will use it to direct Predator UAV missions. The company is also marketing its Universal Control System (UCS) for the control of UAVs such as the Predator.
UCS is designed to be more user-friendly than the original ground stations supplied by General Atomics, and Raytheon hopes to make a sale soon.
On Wednesday the General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper unmanned attack vehicle dropped its first precision-guided bombs in anger, not long after the combat debut of the MQ-9/Hellfire combination.