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[6.0] US Battlefield UAVs (1)

v1.2.0 / 6 of 16 / 01 jan 03 / greg goebel / public domain

* The usefulness of robot aircraft for reconnaissance was demonstrated in Vietnam. At the same time, early steps were being taken to use them in active combat at sea and on land, but battlefield UAVs would not come into their own until the 1980s.

The US military has pursued a number of different battlefield UAV programs since the 1980s, with varying degrees of success. This chapter and the next outline the history and current state of US battlefield UAV efforts.


[6.1] BATTLEFIELD UAVS
[6.2] THE DASH HELICOPTER DRONES / SEAMOS
[6.3] US BATTLEFIELD UAVS IN THE GULF WAR: PIONEER / EXDRONE / POINTER
[6.4] FLOPS: AQUILA / BRAVE 200 / HUNTER / OUTRIDER
[6.5] US ARMY SHADOW 200 / SHADOW 600
[6.6] US NAVY RQ-8A FIRESCOUT

[6.1] BATTLEFIELD UAVS

* UAVs, such as the Northrop Falconer, had been developed for battlefield reconnaissance beginning in the 1950s, but these machines saw little or no combat service. As is discussed in a later chapter, the Israelis pioneered the operational use of battlefield UAVs in the early 1980s, during their misadventures in southern Lebanon. Very few of the technologies they used were all that new, but the Israelis finally achieved the proper formula for operational success, using their battlefield UAVs to help destroy Syrian SAM sites and assist in other combat operations.

With the successes in southern Lebanon, international interest in battlefield UAVs picked up significantly. During the 1980s, most of the major military powers and many of the minor ones acquired a battlefield UAV capability, and continue to expand that capability. These battlefield UAVs fall into two broad categories, which can be designated for convenience as "combat surveillance" and "tactical reconnaissance" UAVs.

* The function of a combat surveillance UAV is to observe events on a battlefield in real time, orbiting over the battle area and relaying intelligence to a ground control station. They are generally powered by small rotary or two-stroke piston "chain saw" engines.

They are directed by an autopilot system with RC backup. The autopilot directs the aircraft from sets of waypoints programmed in before takeoff, with the program set up by displaying a map on a workstation, clicking on the desired map coordinates with a mouse, and then downloading the program into the UAV. Navigation is often verified by a GPS-INS navigation system.

However, combat surveillance UAVs usually use the autopilot to get to the operating area, with the aircraft then operating by radio control to find targets of opportunity. The need to stay within radio range restricts combat surveillance UAVs to ranges within a line-of-sight of the transmitter. This is usually the determining factor in "range" specifications for such UAVs. For this reason, "endurance" rather than "range" is a more useful specification in such cases.

The UAV sensors are generally housed in a turret underneath the aircraft, and almost always feature day-night imagers. The turret may also include a laser designator to allow the UAV to mark targets for smart weapons. Other specialized payloads, such as SIGINT packages, or new lightweight "synthetic aperture radar (SAR)" sensors with all-weather imaging capability, are now being fielded as well.

The larger combat surveillance UAVs have landing gear, usually fixed, and can take off and land on an unimproved airstrip, with an arresting hook to snag a cable for short landings. Such UAVs may also be launched by a RATO booster, and recovered by parachute, parasail, or by flying into a net. Smaller combat surveillance UAVs may be launched with a pneumatic, hydraulic, or electric catapult, with the very smallest launched by an elastic-bungee catapult.

* The tactical reconnaissance UAV is usually larger, jet powered, with longer range and higher speed. Like a combat surveillance UAV, it has an autopilot with radio control backup, but it relies more on the autopilot than on radio control, since its primary mission is to fly over predesignated targets out of line of sight, take pictures, and then come home. The tactical reconnaissance UAV will usually not loiter over the battle area, and real-time intelligence is less essential.

A tactical reconnaissance UAV usually carries day-night reconnaissance cameras, rather than a sensor turret, though SAR can be carried as well. They are generally launched by RATO booster and recovered by parachute, though they can be launched from aircraft as well.

The dividing line between combat surveillance and tactical reconnaissance UAVs, as well as between them and other classes of UAVs, is fuzzy. Some types of UAV may be usable for both missions. The distinction between a combat surveillance UAV and some kinds of "endurance" UAVs, discussed in later chapters, and between a tactical reconnaissance and a strategic reconnaissance UAV, as discussed in earlier chapters, is also very thin.

There are also many variations on themes. The smaller combat surveillance UAVs, in the size range of a large hobbyist RC model plane and used to support military forces at the brigade or battalion level, are sometimes called "mini-UAVs", and their low cost makes them particularly suitable for "expendable" missions.

Such expendable missions might involve carrying a jammer payload into an enemy's operational area to disrupt radar and communications, or even being fitted with a radar seeker and a warhead to attack enemy radars. Such an "attack drone" or "harassment UAV" now becomes difficult to logically distinguish from a cruise missile.

BACK_TO_TOP

[6.2] THE DASH HELICOPTER DRONES / SEAMOS

* The first operational battlefield UAV developed by the US military was for antisubmarine warfare (ASW). In the early 1960s, the US Navy obtained a small "Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH)" that could fly off a frigate or destroyer to carry homing torpedoes or nuclear depth charges for attacks on enemy submarines that were out of range of the ship's other weapons. This was a relatively simple requirement, involving a neatly defined mission in a combat environment where presumably nobody would usually be shooting back at the drone, and it seemed achievable with the technology of the time.

Gyrodyne Company of Long Island, New York, was awarded the contract to build DASH, and based the design on a one-man helicopter the company had already developed, the "YRON-1". The initial DASH demonstration prototype, designated the "DSN-1", used a Porsche flat-four piston engine with 54 kW (72 horsepower), with nine such prototypes built. Initial flights were in the summer of 1961, at first with a pilot on board, leading up to an unpiloted helicopter flight in August 1961.

A second-generation prototype, the "DSN-2", was powered by two Porsche engines, each with 64.5 kW (86 horsepower). Three such drones were built, and then led to the production DASH, the "DSN-3", which was powered by a Boeing T50-BO-8A turboshaft engine with 225 skW (300 shaft horsepower). First flight of the DSN-3 was also in the summer of 1961.

* The US military services adopted a common aircraft designation scheme in 1962, and the DASH variants were given new designations. The DSN-1 became the "QH-50A", the DSN-2 became the "QH-50B", and the DSN-3 became the "QH-50C".

The general configuration of all three of the DASH prototype variants was similar, though the QH-50C was scaled up, with an empty weight almost twice that of the QH-50A. The QH-50C was an ugly little machine that was reminiscent of an insect. It had a frame made of steel tubing, with all machinery directly accessible, and stood on twin skids, with one or two homing torpedoes or nuclear depth charges carried between the skids. It had a coaxial rotor system and a dropdown inverted vee tail.

The QH-50C had a height of 2.96 meters (9 feet 8 inches), a rotor diameter of 6.1 meters (20 feet), and an empty weight of 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds). It was guided solely by radio control, and had neither sensors nor autonomous navigation capability. Combat radius was a modest 54 kilometers (33 miles), which was adequate for its mission. Greater range would not have been very useful, as the DASH flew at low altitude and used a line-of-sight communications link, limiting its range in any case.

The US Navy originally ordered 900 QH-50Cs, but the type suffered from reliability problems, with a quarter of the first batch of 100 lost in crashes. The order was cut to a little over 500, with final production being the "QH-50D" variant, with an uprated engine with 274 skW (365 shaft horsepower), fiberglass rotors, and increased fuel capacity. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force also bought a small batch of 16 DASHes in 1968.

* The career of the DASH was undistinguished, but it was one of the first drones ever used in a strictly tactical environment, and pointed the way to the future. A small number of DASHes were apparently given reconnaissance gear and used for naval surveillance over the Gulf of Tonkin in 1966 in a project codenamed SNOOPY.

In the early 1970s the Air Force evaluated the QH-50D for a battlefield drone test program codenamed NITE GAZELLE. NITE GAZELLE apparently experimented with using drones to drop bomblets and carry machine guns, but details are unclear, as are reports that the DASH was used in other evaluations as a countermeasures platform.

In the 1980s, Aerodyne corporation attempted to sell an updated version of the DASH, designated the "CH-84 Pegasus", with an Allison 250-C20F turboshaft engine and updated electronics. While it appears the Pegasus was not a success, the DASH was resurrected a second time in the 1990s by the German Dornier company, now part of DaimlerChrysler, for the "SEAMOS" naval UAV.

SEAMOS owes much to DASH, and in fact a modified QH-50D was used as the SEAMOS demonstrator prototype. Like the original DASH, SEAMOS is a coaxial-rotor drone helicopter with twin landing skids, though it is unsurprisingly a much more refined and capable system and in particular even has a real fuselage. SEAMOS is powered by an Allison 250-C20W turboshaft engine with 315 skW (420 shaft horsepower).

   DAIMLERCHRYSLER SEAMOS:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   rotor diameter          6.1 meters          20 feet
   length                  2.85 meters         9 feet 4 inches
   height                  2.53 meters         8 feet 3 inches
   empty weight            620 kilograms       1,367 pounds
   max loaded weight       1,060 kilograms     2,337 pounds

   maximum speed           167 KPH             103 MPH / 90 KT
   service ceiling         4,000 meters        13,125 feet
   endurance               4 hours

   payload                 Day / night imager or other payload.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

SEAMOS flight tests were performed with the technology demonstrator in 1991, leading to a production contract in 1996 and flight tests of a true prototype in 1999. Service introduction is expected in 2005, though it appears that the development program has not been smooth.

BACK_TO_TOP

[6.3] US BATTLEFIELD UAVS IN THE GULF WAR: PIONEER / EXDRONE / POINTER

* Despite the early work on battlefield UAVs such as the DASH, the US was something of a laggard in the adoption of the technology, and were heavily influenced by the Israelis. After the destruction of the US Marines barracks in Beruit, Lebanon, by a car bomb in October 1983, killing 241 American troops, Marine Corps General P.X. Kelley visited Lebanon in secret to investigate the incident. After the visit, Kelley met with Israeli military officials in Tel Aviv.

The Israelis showed Kelley a videotape, taken from an Israeli battlefield UAV, displaying him walking outside in Tel Aviv, locked in the crosshairs of the UAV's video camera. Kelley was impressed: "I have to buy myself one of those!" The Israelis had also informed the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Vesey JR, of the success of Israeli UAVs and decoys in Lebanon.

The US Navy had suffered an embarrassment of their own in Lebanon, in a botched airstrike on Syrian air defenses in December 1983 that cost the service two aircraft. US Navy Secretary John Lehman assessed the incident, and conclude that the strike could have actually been performed by the 41 centimeter (16 inch) guns on the battleship USS NEW JERSEY, then off the Lebanon coast, if there had been some way to spot targets for the warship.

A piloted aircraft would have been very vulnerable to AA defenses, but a UAV could do the job, and within days the US Navy was trying to obtain an Israeli Mazlat "Mastiff" battlefield UAV. The Israelis jumped at the opportunity. In early 1984, the Marines left Lebanon, but in March of that year the Israelis demonstrated a Mastiff to the US Navy, landing it on the assault helicopter carrier USS GUAM while it was off the coast of Israel. By September 1984, the US Marines were operating a Mastiff at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The deal was so hastily put together that all the operating manuals were still in Hebrew.

Even before this, in August, Navy Secretary Lehman had initiated a competition for fast-track delivery of a UAV to the US Navy. The Navy wanted something fast, but it needed better range and endurance than the Mastiff, as well as a secure datalink.

The competition was formally initiated a year later, in August 1985. There were a number of participants, but the winner was the Israeli Mazlat firm, working with their US partner, AAI of Maryland. They proposed the "Pioneer" battlefield UAV, which was an improved version of an existing Israeli UAV, the Mazlat "Scout".

Initial deliveries of the Pioneer began in 1986. Although battlefield UAVs tend to vary a great deal in configuration, the Pioneer could be considered to be a good representative of the class, with later battlefield UAVs having many of the same features.

The Pioneer featured fixed tricycle landing gear, a twin-boom tail configuration, and a pusher propeller. It was fitted with a sensor turret under the fuselage and was powered by a 19.5 kW (26 horsepower) two-stroke two-cylinder piston engine.

   MAZLAT / AAI PIONEER:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                5.15 meters         16 feet 11 inches
   length                  4.26 meters         14 feet
   height                  1 meter             3 feet 3 inches
   payload                 45 kilograms        100 pounds
   launch weight           190 kilograms       419 pounds

   maximum speed           185 KPH             115 MPH / 100 KT
   service ceiling         4,575 meters        15,000 feet
   endurance               > 6 hours

   launch scheme           RATO, pneumatic catapult, or runway.
   recovery scheme         Net or runway landing with hook.
   payload                 Day / night imager.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

The Pioneer received extensive evaluation in military field exercises. It was operated from ground sites, as well as from naval vessels such as the battleship USS IOWA. A total of nine UAV systems, each with eight aircraft and associated ground control facilities, were obtained by the Navy and Marine Corps.

Pioneer performed its first operational missions during the Persian Gulf convoy escort effort in the late 1980s. During the Gulf War, Pioneers proved valuable intelligence assets for the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Army, which was loaned one system during the war. The Pioneers flew a total of 533 sorties against the Iraqis. Of forty UAVs sent into combat, twelve were lost and many others were damaged. One of the famous stories of the Gulf War is an incident where Iraqi soldiers attempted to surrender to a Pioneer.

The Pioneer has seen service with the Marines in later operations, supporting the ill-fated US intervention in Somalia, as well as peacekeeping operations in Bosnia.

* During the Gulf War, the US Marines also used about 60 cheap battlefield mini-UAVs, the "BQM-174 Exdrone (Expendable Drone)", that were fitted with simple TV camera payloads for battlefield reconnaissance.

The Exdrone was built by BAI Aerosystems of Maryland. It was mostly made of styrofoam, balsa wood, and plastics, and was powered by a chainsaw engine. It was a "symmetrical delta", meaning it didn't matter if it flew upside-down, allowing it to offer some protection to its payload when necessary. More details on the Exdrone and its descendant, the "Dragon Drone", are discussed in the next chapter.

* A very small UAV was also tested operationally during the war. The "FQM-151A Pointer", was designed by AeroVironment Incorporated, which is run by Paul McCready, famous for such pioneering aircraft as the human-powered Gossamer Condor and a robotic flying pterodactyl replica. The Pointer was developed with company funds, with the US Army and Marine Corps obtaining a total of about 50 beginning in 1990.

The radio-controlled Pointer was built mostly of high-impact Kevlar. It resembled a hobbyist's RC sailplane with a small engine added, with the wing standing up above the fuselage on a pylon and a pusher propeller on the wing behind the pylon. A lithium battery pack powered the UAV's compact electric motor to drive the propeller. The little Pointer was hand-launched. It was recovered simply by putting it into a flat spin, allowing it to flutter down to the ground.

   AEROVIRONMENT POINTER:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                2.74 meters         9 feet
   length                  1.83 meters         6 feet
   max loaded weight       4.1 kilograms       9 pounds

   maximum speed           73 KPH              46 MPH / 40 KT
   service ceiling         300 meters          1,000 feet
   endurance               1 hour
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

The Pointer carried a CCD camera fixed in its nose, meaning it had to be directly pointed at its target to see it, which is how the machine got its name. The CCD camera had a resolution of 360 x 380 pixels and a viewing aperture of 22 x 30 degrees. Video could be fed back to the ground station by radio or fiber-optic link.

The ground station recorded flight imagery on an eight-millimeter video cassette recorder. Digital compass headings were superimposed on the imagery and the controller could add verbal comments. The imagery could be inspected with normal, freeze-frame, fast, or slow-motion replay. The aircraft system and the ground control station were carried in separate backpacks. It required a pilot and an observer. The Pointers in US military service have now been upgraded with a GPS-INS capability, and it has led to a number of derivatives, discussed in a later chapter.

BACK_TO_TOP

[6.4] FLOPS: AQUILA / BRAVE 200 / HUNTER / OUTRIDER

* Although the US Navy did adopt the Pioneer UAV, the US Army's efforts to develop a battlefield UAV led to a series of embarrassments. The Army is said to have the least effective procurement bureaucracy of all the US armed services, and two decades of fumbling seems to bear that judgement out.

The modern history of the Army's battlefield drone efforts actually began in 1973, when DARPA began a program called PRAERIE, which tested a UAV with a TV camera and a laser target designator. PRAIRIE was able to target a truck and guide a laser-guided bomb onto it.

DARPA does not have a charter to build operational systems, and passed the concept on to the Army, which decided to proceed with the next phase of development. Ford Aerospace had implemented PRAIRIE, but the Army put the follow-on effort, named "Aquila", up for bid, and Lockheed was the low bidder.

The MQM-105 Aquila was a tailless aircraft, driven by a 17.9 kW (24 horsepower) piston engine with a pusher propeller. Initial flight of a demonstrator was in 1975, leading to a full-scale development contract in 1979 and flight of a full prototype in 1982.

   LOCKHEED AQUILA (EXTENDED RANGE VARIANT):
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                3.88 meters         12 feet 9 inches
   length                  2.08 meters         6 feet 10 inches
   payload                 52 kilograms        115 pounds
   max loaded weight       150 kilograms       331 pounds

   maximum speed           210 KPH             130 MPH / 113 KT
   service ceiling         4,500 meters        14,800 feet
   endurance               3 hours

   launch scheme           Hydraulic catapult.
   recovery scheme         Net or parachute.
   payload                 Day / night imager & laser designator.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

Lockheed also considered a variant of the Aquila named the "Altair" for international sales, but the entire program finally collapsed of its own weight. Lockheed didn't have Ford's experience in the domain, leading to development problems and delays. To complicate matters considerably, the specification for Aquila suffered from "gold plating". The UAV was specified as if it were a piloted aircraft, and new features were added in an undisciplined fashion. There was also no clear owner for the project.

Aquila never really met specifications, and was finally killed off in 1987 after the expenditure of almost a billion USD. It is said that the program still remains a source of embarrassment to those who were involved in it.

* While the Army was floundering with the Aquila, the Air Force was going through a similarly frustrating exercise with a low-end UAV, the "Boeing Robotic Air Vehicle (BRAVE) 200". The BRAVE 200 was intended to be used as an antiradar attack drone, a jamming platform, or for other expendable battlefield missions.

The BRAVE 200 was a neat little canard machine, with a span of 2.57 meters (8 feet 5 inches), a length of of 2.12 meters (6 feet 11 inches), and a launch weight of 120 kilograms (265 pounds). It was powered by a 21 kW (28 horsepower) two-stroke, two-cylinder engine, driving a pusher propeller. The BRAVE 200 had an interesting launch scheme, with 15 of the UAVs stowed in a transport "box", with a drone shoved out of its cell in the box on an arm to be launched by a RATO booster. It was recovered by parachute if the mission allowed it be recovered.

The BRAVE 200 effort began in 1983, when the company received a USAF contract to develop an antiradar attack drone, under the designation "YCQM-121A Pave Tiger". 14 prototypes were flown in 1983 and 1984, but the program was cancelled in late 1984.

It didn't stay cancelled. In 1987, the USAF awarded Boeing a contract to develop an improved version of the drone, designated the "YGCM-121B Seek Spinner", as a loitering antiradar attack drone. The YGCM-121B was generally similar to the YCQM but heavier, with a weight of 200 kilograms (440 pounds). The Air Force also evaluated another variant in the series, designated the "CEM-138 Pave Cricket", with a jamming payload.

However, both Air Force programs were axed in 1989. Boeing continued to promote the BRAVE 200 to other customers, and also tried to sell a jet-powered drone, the "BRAVE 3000". The BRAVE 3000 resembled a small cruise missile with boxy fuselage, a straight wing that pivoted into launch configuration, cruciform tailfins, a belly fin forward of the wing, and an engine intake under the belly. The BRAVE 3000 also featured a container launch scheme, and had a launch weight of 285 kilograms (629 pounds) with RATO booster. A few prototypes were flown in the mid-1980s. Nobody bought either the BRAVE 200 or the BRAVE 3000, and both projects were abandoned.

* With UAV efforts floundering, in the late 1980s, the US Congress formed the "Joint Program Office (JPO)" to consolidate UAV programs. JPO was a branch of the Naval Air Systems Command, but obtained funding directly from the office of the Secretary of Defense, at the top of the US defense hierarchy. One of the first UAV programs begun by the JPO was the "Short Range UAV" program, which in 1988 selected the Hunter UAV, which was built by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) in cooperation with TRW.

The Hunter first flew in 1991. It has a general configuration not much different from the Pioneer, except that it is bigger and has twin engines, consisting of two 45 kW (60 horsepower) Moto-Guzzi piston engines arranged in on both ends of center fuselage in a "push-me-pull-you" configuration.

The original plan was to acquire 50 Hunter battlefield observation systems, with four aircraft and ground control gear in each system, for a total of $1.6 billion USD. The aircraft was given the Army designation of "BQM-155A". Initial evaluation determined that the Hunter's range was inadequate, its data link was unsatisfactory, and the aircraft was too big to fit into the transport aircraft defined in the original specification.

   IAI / TRW BQM-155A / RQ-5A HUNTER:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                8.9 meters          29 feet 2 inches
   length                  7 meters            22 feet 11 inches
   height                  1.7 meters          5 feet 7 inches
   empty weight            590 kilograms       1,300 pounds
   max loaded weight       725 kilograms       1,600 pounds

   maximum speed           200 KPH             125 MPH / 109 KT
   service ceiling         4,570 meters        15,000 feet
   endurance               12 hours

   launch scheme           RATO booster or runway takeoff.
   recovery scheme         Conventional landing with hook.
   payload                 Day / night imager.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

Despite these deficiencies, a low rate initial production (LRIP) contract for seven systems at a price of $171 million was placed in 1993. Further evaluation of the Hunter based on these seven systems demonstrated more shortcomings in the UAV's software, data link, and engines. As the Hunter's defects were gradually uncovered, price continued to rise, and by 1996 the Army was faced with paying over $2 billion USD for 52 Hunter systems. Hunter was cancelled. By the time of its cancellation, 20 Hunters had been lost in crashes.

* The cancellation of the Hunter program did not mean that the Hunters in service were discarded, and in fact they proved surprisingly useful and were even sent on operational missions. The Hunters were employed by the US Army, Air Force, and Navy on experimental programs; provided training and helping in the development of operational concepts for the day when a more effective UAV system was available; and evaluated use of UAVs for communications relay and electronic warfare (EW) missions.

In the spring of 1999, eight surviving Hunters, redesignated "RQ-5A", were sent to Albania to support OPERATION ALLIED FORCE, the NATO air campaign against Serbia over Kosovo. The Hunters were flown out of Macedonia, and were able to provide real-time video to senior officers directing ALLIED FORCE, with the video relayed through a ground station, then through a satellite to the US, and finally distributed to end users.

NATO commander Wesley Clark used the video feeds and on a few occasions contacted the Hunter operations team directly. The operations team also could adjust their missions in real time in response to inputs from the ALLIED FORCE air operations headquarters.

The Hunters flew 281 sorties during ALLIED FORCE. They spotted targets such as air defense radars, artillery, and missiles, and usually stayed on station during attacks to perform post-strike damage assessment. The Hunters were able to operate much lower than manned aircraft, which were restricted to minimum safe operating altitudes. Two Hunters were damaged and sent back to the US for repair, one flew into a mountain, and five were lost in action, apparently shot down. The operations team received six replacements.

The Hunter remains in service despite its limitations, and the Army hopes to keep it operating until 2007. In 2002, the Army performed experiments with the Hunter in which it was used to drop "Brilliant Antiarmor Munitions (BATs)", a "smart" antitank glide weapon, as an experiment towards introduction of a more formal armed UAV system for the Army. A test drop of four BATs performed in early October 2002 scored three direct hits on armored vehicle targets, with one of the three blowing the turret off the tank it struck. The Army also expects to evaluate other munitions, such as the Hellfire antitank missile, on the Hunter.

* However, although the Hunters had proven useful almost in spite of themselves, the Army still did not have a true operational battlefield UAV system. In 1996, on the cancellation of the Hunter, the Army went through its third attempt to procure a battlefield UAV with the Alliant Techsystems Outrider.

The Outrider was a relatively small battlefield UAV that featured an unusual "dual wing", meaning it was a biplane with the wings staggered and joined at the ends. It was powered by a four-cylinder piston engine driving a pusher propeller, had fixed landing gear, and a pancake-shaped data link antenna on its back.

   ALLIANT TECHSYSTEMS OUTRIDER:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                3.38 meters         11 feet 1 inch
   length                  2.84 meters         9 feet  4 inch
   empty weight            63.5 kilograms      140 pounds
   max loaded weight       193 kilograms       425 pounds

   maximum speed           220 KPH             138 MPH / 120 KT
   service ceiling         4,570 meters        15,000 feet
   endurance               4.5 hours

   launch scheme           Conventional runway takeoff.
   recovery scheme         Conventional landing with hook.
   payload                 Day / night imager or other payload.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

The Outrider was another fiasco. After continuous problems and a failure to meet specifications, the Outrider was cancelled in 1999. While it is difficult to understand why the Army had such difficulty obtaining what would seem to be a relatively simple technology, part of the problem seems to be specsmanship.

The Israelis were able to make use of battlefield UAVs quickly because they had simple requirements. The weather in the Middle East is generally hot, sunny, and clear, and the Israelis have a relatively fixed set of adversaries who mostly live right on their border.

In contrast, the US Army may be forced to operate almost anywhere and against anyone, meaning that a system that would be satisfactory to the Israelis would not be adequate for the US Army. The US Army necessarily had more demanding specifications. This was unavoidable, but it also opened the door to adding even more specifications, a bureaucratic process known as "feature creep" that can squeeze the life out a project.

Along with over-specification, there seems to have been a degree of bumbling as well. The seeming simplicity of a UAV is misleading. Studies of the difficulties encountered in Army UAV programs indicate that participants tended to underestimate the complexity of a UAV system, starting out thinking that UAVs are little more than glorified RC model airplanes, and then were overwhelmed as problems mounted. On the other hand, some defense engineers approached UAVs with the same mindset as they would use for building a piloted aircraft, causing costs to skyrocket.

There also seems to have been problems from interservice squabbling and Congressional micromanagement. After the development contract was awarded, the Pentagon decided that Outrider had to meet both Army and Navy requirements. This meant increasing the UAV's range by a factor of four, to allow ships to see targets over the horizon, and specifying an engine that ran on diesel fuel, not gasoline, which is too explosive to store on a naval vessel except when the need absolutely demands it. The engine effort was a fiasco.

US Navy UAV efforts seem to have gone much better partly because of high-level interest in the project. The original Navy request that resulted in procurement of the Pioneer UAV was a personal initiative of Navy Undersecretary John Lehman. Not only does having such a prominent patron eliminate obstacles, it also encourages program officials to greater diligence, as they know their actions have high-level visibility. The Army efforts, in contrast, have often lacked patrons or high-level commitment.

However, it should also be noted that the Navy has been criticised for becoming involved with programs like Outrider, changing the requirements drastically to fit their needs, and then walking off. In addition, the Navy's long and difficult search for an antiship missile target, discussed in an earlier chapter, suggests that the Army has no particular copyright on bumbling. Further consideration of the matter leads into a tangle of bureaucracy best avoided.

BACK_TO_TOP

[6.5] US ARMY SHADOW 200 / SHADOW 600

* After the collapse of the Outrider effort, the US Army went through a fourth attempt to procure a battlefield UAV. AAI followed up their Pioneer UAV with the similar but refined Shadow 200 UAV, and in late 1999, the Army selected the Shadow 200 to fill the tactical UAV requirement.

The Army requirement specified a UAV that used a gasoline engine, could carry an electro-optic / infrared imaging sensor turret, and had a minimum range of 50 kilometers (31 miles) with four hour endurance on station. The Shadow 200 offers at least twice that range.

The Shadow 200 looks much like a Pioneer, but has a sharper nose, a ring around the pusher prop, and an inverted-vee tail, supported at the ends by twin booms. The UAV is powered by a 28.5 kW (38 horsepower) rotary engine. The Army requirement dictates that it be able to land in a soccer field.

   AAI SHADOW 200:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                3.89 meters         12 feet 9 inches
   length                  3.41 meters         11 feet 2 inches
   payload                 27.2 kilograms      60 pounds
   launch weight           149 kilograms       328 pounds
   maximum speed           225 KPH             140 MPH / 123 KT
   service ceiling         4,575 meters        15,000 feet
   endurance               > 5 hours

   launch scheme           RATO booster or runway takeoff.
   recovery scheme         Net or runway landing with hook.
   payload                 Day / night imager or other payload.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

The Army plans to obtain 44 Shadow 200 systems. Each system will include three UAVs, two ground stations, and support vehicles for equipment and personnel. Production aircraft, designated Block 2, will differ slightly from the current configuration, featuring an improved sensor payload, a Tactical Common Data Link, and compatibility with the Tactical Control System that the Defense Department is developing as a common control system for all UAVs.

* The Army felt confident that they would encounter no major problems with fielding the Shadow 200, since it was derived from a thoroughly proven system. Evaluation tests began in 2001, with the Army hoping to go to LRIP by the end of the year, but as it turned out the Army's "jinx" proved difficult to break. The evaluation tests were marred by crashes and accidents that led to their halt in the summer of 2001, while an independent "red team" looked over the program to see what was going wrong and suggest corrections.

This delayed LRIP by over a year. However, the Army clearly regards these troubles as basically teething problems rather than an indication of a fundamentally flawed system, as the service then initiated development of a SIGINT payload for the Shadow 200, under the designation of the "Division Tactical UAV SIGINT Program (DTSP)".

Contracts were awarded to Raytheon, BAE Systems, and Applied Signal Technology for demonstration of a payload that could identify and locate radar and radio emitters within a 120 kilometer (75 mile) radius, hopefully including stealthy "low probability of intercept" emitters that use "frequency hopping" or "spread spectrum" signals to frustrate detection. Two Shadow 200s will operate cooperatively to perform precise targeting, though the Army wants to be able to use a single UAV to have the capability to perform coarse targeting.

The DTSP payload promises to be a challenge, since current SIGINT payloads carried by Army helicopters weigh 900 kilograms (1 ton), while the payload capacity of the Shadow 200 is only 27 kilograms, in a volume measuring 40 x 22.5 x 30 centimeters (16 x 9 x 12 inches). Of course, the UAV's imager will have to be removed when the DTSP package is installed. The payload will also be restricted to a power consumption of 500 watts.

A Hunter UAV will be used for development and evaluation of the DTSP payload. Development challenges include reducing the electrical noise of the UAV and handling of UAV command and data signals so they don't interfere with the payload's operation, as well as accommodating the SIGINT antennas in the small airframe. The service hopes to field the package in 2008, eventually procuring 14 systems, with six DTSP payloads per system.

* AAI has also built a scaled-up Pioneer derivative known as the "Shadow 600". It also resembles a Pioneer, except that the outer panels of the wings are distinctively swept back. A number of Shadow 600s are in service in several nations.

   AAI SHADOW 600:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                6.83 meters         22 feet 5 inches
   length                  4.70 meters         15 feet 5 inches
   height                  1.22 meters         4 feet
   empty weight            163 kilograms       360 pounds
   max loaded weight       272 kilograms       600 pounds

   maximum speed           210 KPH             132 MPH / 115 KT
   service ceiling         5,180 meters        17,000 feet
   endurance               14 hours

   launch scheme           RATO booster, catapult, or runway takeoff.
   recovery scheme         Parachute, net, or runway landing.
   payload                 Day / night imager or other payload.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

* The Army is looking towards obtaining another UAV system with longer range and endurance to complement the Shadow 200. This medium-range UAV would have a radius of action of 200 to 300 kilometers (125 to 185 miles) and an endurance of eight to twelve hours with a 90 kilogram (200 pound) payload. It would be able to carry offensive munitions such as the BAT. The Army would like to formally initiate the program in 2003 or 2004, with an initial operational capability in 2006.

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[6.6] US NAVY RQ-8A FIRESCOUT

* While the Army was working on Outrider, the Navy was moving on to its second generation UAV, as old Pioneers were being withdrawn from service.

The Navy requirement specified a vertical takeoff & landing (VTOL) aircraft, with a payload capacity of 90 kilograms (200 pounds), a range of 200 kilometers (125 miles), an endurance on station of three hours at an altitude of 6 kilometers (20,000 feet), and the ability land on a ship in a 46 KPH (29 MPH) breeze. The UAV was to fly 190 hours between maintenance.

There were three finalists in the competition, which was designated "VTOL-UAV" or "VT-UAV". Bell, Sikorsky, and a collaboration of Ryan and Schweizer Helicopters submitted designs.

The Ryan-Schweizer UAV was selected as the winner in the spring of 2000. The "RQ-8A Firescout", as it was named, was a derivative of the Schweizer three-passenger, turbine powered 330SP helicopter, itself a derivative of the Hughes 300 series helicopters, with a new fuselage, new fuel system, and added UAV electronics and sensors.

The initial prototype of the Firescout was piloted in initial tests, flying autonomously for the first time in January 2000. The Rolls-Royce Allison 250 turbine engine ran on JP-5 and JP-8 jet fuel, which is nonvolatile and safe for shipboard storage.

The Firescout was to be fitted with a sensor ball turret that carries electro-optic and infrared cameras, and a laser range finder. It was to be controlled over a data link derived from the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAV, operating over a line of sight to a distance of 280 kilometers (172 miles). The control system was to be fitted onto a ship, or could be carried on a Hummer light vehicle for US Marine service.

The Firescout program suffered a setback in November 2000, when the initial prototype crashed and was destroyed, leading to a schedule slip. Despite the accident, the Navy was expected to move quickly to begin production and introduction of the type, but then in late 2001 the program went into a stall.

Although progress on the project had been regarded as satisfactory, the Navy decided the Firescout didn't meet their needs after all, and cut funding for the program in December 2001. The Navy hopes to leverage technology development for the Firescout program into their next UAV effort. Northrop Grumman continues to promote the Firescout to other potential customers.

* Despite the difficulties in procuring operational UAV systems, the US military is entering a new era in which UAVs will be critical to warfighting tactics. UAVs fitted with optical, infrared, and SAR sensors, SIGINT payloads, or ECM systems should be in widespread use in about a decade, with the UAVs controlled and relaying data back over high-bandwidth data links in real time, linked to ground, air, sea, and space platforms.

The trend had been emerging before the American war in Afghanistan in 2001:2002, but was greatly accelerated by the use of UAVs in that conflict, and in fact combat experience was one of the inputs that convinced the Navy to give up on the Firescout. The war in Afghanistan emphasized "long endurance" UAVs, which are the subject of later chapters.

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