Sep 13, 2012 11:29 UTC
Death from above
(click to view larger)
The Viper Strike began life as the BAT – a canceled munition option for ground-fired ATACMS missiles. After USAF Predator UAVs armed with Hellfire missiles began to show promise in the Global War on Terror, however, US Army planners began to examine their options. Could they place a similar capability in the hands of Army ground commanders? In July 2002, these examinations led to the award of a 90-day contract to demonstrate the possibility of BAT deployment on a modified U.S. Army RQ-5 Hunter UAV.
Those tests went well, and Viper Strikes are currently carried by MQ-5B Hunter UAVs – see this video [MPG, 13.2 MB] of a Viper Strike in testing. The weapon’s small size (3 feet long, 44 pounds) and special advantages in urban fights, mountainous terrain, etc. give it a chance of spreading to other platforms. Special Operations Command has shown interest, but front-line deployment has been limited. Is the Viper Strike a case of “the right weapon at the right time”? Or a case of “caught betwixt and between”? That’s now an important question for Europe’s MBDA, who bought the weapon and manufacturing from Northrop Grumman.
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May 29, 2012 15:11 UTC
NanoSAR on ScanEagle
In May 2012, ImSAR, L.L.C. in Salem, UT received a $24 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to build, test, and assess a lightweight ultra wide band synthetic aperture (ground-looking) radar for use on small unmanned aerial vehicles. Work will be performed in Salem, UT, with an estimated completion date of May 31/17. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command in Natick, MA (W911QY-12-D-0011).
ImSAR’s NanoSAR radar has already tested on Boeing’s popular ScanEagle UAV, and the company began offering it as an official payload option on Feb 23/10. The US Army doesn’t use ScanEagle UAVs, but they do have options like the RQ-7B Shadow that could benefit from a small radar that was light enough to add in addition to the existing surveillance turret. ImSAR can offer them an improved NanoSAR B, or their new Leonardo radar that’s well-suited to tasks like convoy overwatch and land-mine detection.
May 08, 2012 11:15 UTC
India has not been left out of the global UAV push. The country operates Israeli Searcher tactical UAVs, and Heron Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs, placing an additional Heron order in 2005. It has also undertaken development programs for a smaller UAV, the “Nishant”. With its “Rustom” program, however, India hopes to offer a UAV in the Heron/ Predator/ Watchkeeper class of MALE UAVs.
It had also hoped to begin to change a culture and tradition of wholly state-owned development of military hardware, which has not always performed well, or served India’s needs. A recent award has selected a winner, and moved the project forward. It may also serve as a reminder that bureaucracies are very difficult to change.
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May 02, 2012 14:00 UTC
Flight International reports that Finland has picked Aeronautics Defence Systems’ Orbiter 2 UAV as its future tactical UAV, beating BlueBird’s SkyLite B for a likely EUR 23 million, 55-system contract. The contract signing is expected soon, and once that happens, Finland will join its Baltic Sea neighbor Poland as an Orbiter UAV customer.
Despite their small size and weight of under 10 kg, both systems require a vehicle-towed or mounted catapult for launch, and use parachute recovery. They offer similar performance ranges just above the mini-UAV class, with endurance of around 3.5 hours, and payloads that involve just a small surveillance and laser designation turret. A slightly larger Orbiter 3 variant is available that would have doubled endurance to 7 hours, and increased control range to over 100 km, but Finland appears not to have picked it. BlueBird touted the Skylite’s high-wind, all-weather capability, while the Orbiter can extend its operating control range to 80 km using ground data terminals. In either case, Finland is picking a small UAV with limited range and capabilities, in exchange for higher numbers at relatively low cost. Given the country’s dispersed defense doctrine, it’s a choice that makes military as well as financial sense.