Endurance UAV + Small Deck = ?


Senior Member
Oct 5, 2009
Endurance UAV + Small Deck = ?

Can you develop an unmanned aircraft that can provide Predator-like endurance and payload capability from the flightdeck of something as small as a Littoral Combat Ship? That's what the US Navy wants to know, so Navair has issued a request for information on persistent ship-based UAS concepts to find out what's possible.

The Navy is looking for an unmanned aircraft that can perform longer-duration surveillance, targeting and limited strike missions in support of irregular warfare, operating from one of more classes of air-capable vessels including LCS, destroyers, cruisers and amphibious assault ships. The Navy would like the UAV to be able to operate from the smallest ship class possible, but recognizes ship size will "greatly affect" the technical approach. You bet it will.

Concept: Lockheed Martin

The RFI sets out threshold and objective requirements that break down like this. The threshold UAV would carry a 600lb payload, have an 8h endurance on station at 300nm and a 15,000ft ceiling. Initial operational capability would be 2020. The objective system would carry a 1,000lb payload and provide 72h endurance on station at 1,000nm (using multiple UAVs to do this is allowed) and a 25,000ft ceiling. IOC would be earlier, in 2016.

By comparison, the Navy's MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter can carry a 600lb payload for 6h at 150nm, operate from a Perry-class frigate and carry EO/IR and radar sensors.

The threshold UAV would carry an EO/IR sensor with laser designator, wide-area radar and COMINT package. The objective UAV would carry that plus weapons, synthetic-aperture radar, ELINT and MASINT packages.

Translated into Predator terms, that would give the threshold UAV a similar capability to the US Army's MQ-1C Warrior, but from the confined flightdeck of a ship, while the objective UAV would be smaller than the US Air Force's MQ-9 Reaper.

On paper, it looks like Boeing A160T (aka MQ-18) unmanned helicopter could have the potential to meet the threshold requirement, and maybe eventually the objective, with some work. With its optimum-speed rotor, the VTOL aircraft certainly has endurance and altitude capability - with what payload is the question.

There are sure to be other ideas...


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