Skip to comments.Army Acquiring More UAVs To Explore New Technologies
Posted on 05/22/2002 10:46:46 AM PDT by Magnum44
Aviation Week & Space Technology May 20, 2002 Pg. 24
Army Acquiring More UAVs To Explore New Technologies
The U.S. Army is looking to expand its arsenal of UAVs through the addition of unmanned Cobra helicopters, Predator-Bs, A-160 Hummingbirds and other systems.
Much of the flurry of UAV activity is focused on experimenting with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) systems and weaponizing the aircraft. But it also marks a change in the Army's attitude toward these systems from a cautious approach to a much more aggressive demeanor.
One clear example is a move to more quickly gain control of the A-160 Hummingbird, being developed by Frontier Sys-tems under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contract. By the end of 2003 the Army wants to take over the project, said Lt. Gen. John M. Riggs, director of the Army's Objective Force Task Force. The Army wasn't slated to take that step until much later.
The long-endurance system with a 2,500-naut.-mi. range, up to 40 hr. endurance with a 300-lb. payload is very promising, Riggs said. Army officials want to increase their participation to ensure the system will meet their needs. The goal is to make sure it is militarily usable, not just a tech demonstrator, Riggs said.
Army developers hope to mature the A-160 concept so a decision can be made around 2006 whether the aircraft should be part of the Army's next-generation Future Combat Systems architecture, says Col. Waldo F. Carmona, commander of the Army's aviation applied technology directorate, which would manage the project.
Hummingbird is essentially a marriage of a 300-hp. internal combustion engine with an in-plane three-bladed rotor. The variable-speed rotor is intended to allow the aircraft to operate at optimum efficiency throughout the envelope. By late 2003 the Army hopes the basic technology will have been proven, despite that the development has encountered some test setbacks. When it takes over the project, the Army will put a tactical common data link on the aircraft for control, add sensors and weapons, and militarize the design. Carmona said the work will initially involve the existing aircraft built for the Darpa effort, but which could be modified or additional vehicles may be built.
The aviation technology research center also hopes to have two Cobra helicopters flying in an unmanned mode next year, although a piloting capability will probably be retained to address safety concerns during exercises. Likely uses for the unmanned Cobras include firing Hellfire missiles, 20-mm. guns, and Stinger missiles and to develop tactics on how to employ armed UAVs. Moreover, different sensors would also be installed.
Other VTOL systems the Army is becoming involved with are SAIC's Vigilante and a counterrotating helicopter. The Army plans to fire a Stinger missile from Vigilante. The integration of the weapon on the aircraft is to be completed by June. To ensure accurate target identification, the missile seeker will be slaved to the sensor. Later, the Army wants to use Vigilante as a resupply vehicle for deployed forces.
Army officials also hope to accelerate work on arming Hunter. The service is starting a new project to have a Hunter ca-pable of firing Javelin missiles, Hellfires or rockets in time for amajor exercise, Millennium Challenge, in July. Control of the UAV would be from an AH-64D Apache Longbow. Other weapon demonstrations are planned already, including dropping the BAT anti-armor munition and launching the Lahat laser-guided anti-tank weapon.
The teaming of helicopters with UAVs has long been a focus of Army research, but is now beginning to make its way into the field. The 101st Airborne Div. now operates a UH-60 Black Hawk Army Airborne Command and Control Sys-tem that can receive UAV sensor information. That capability is being expanded to give the command and control system the ability to direct the UAV.
The Predator-Bs the Army wants to buy are intended as testbeds to help the service refine requirements for its future Ex-tended-Range Multipurpose UAV system meant to augment and replace existing Hunter UAVs. The Army expects to use Hunter through 2007 and hopes to run a competition to replace it starting around 2005, says the Army's UAV program manager Col. Michael A. Hamilton. The new program is specifically for an aircraft, not an entire UAV system; it will have to interface with existing control systems.