Friday, October 7, 2016

Army wants runway-independent Shadow UAS

The US Army is eyeing a new, runway-independent tactical UAS with additional sensors to augment the Textron Systems RQ-7B Shadow mission, according to the service’s project manager for UAS.

The army recently sent a draft initial capabilities document to the Pentagon, which will refine capabilities for the future UAS, says Col Courtney Cote. The current iteration of the Shadow, which the army has operated since 2015, provides reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition for the service’s Brigade Combat Teams. The UAS also operates with the Boeing AH-64 Apache gunship in the scout role.

The new system would be fielded in the 2020s, but Cote could not elaborate more on a timeline or whether the UAS would be larger than the 20ft-long, 209kg, tier 3 Shadow. The improved capabilities should include increased survivability, reliability, endurance and runway independence, he says. The army could also examine whether the Brigade Combat Teams should employ a strike UAS rather than a pure ISR mission with the Shadow.

“Ultimately, it would fulfill the reconnaissance gap in total by increased ability to carry sensors,” Core says.