AUSA: Future ‘aerial ISR family’ revealed

Don’t say the US Army lacks ambition. Nearly four years after the Aerial Common Sensor program flopped, the army is back with a bold new proposal to adopt a five-layer “aerial ISR family” featuring all-new hybrid airships, Bombardier Q400s, Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350s (aka: MC-12Ws) and two classes of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The slide above shows the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc MQ-1C Sky Warrior for the medium/large UAS, but the rumors inside the AUSA exhibit hall also pointed to the Boeing A160 Hummingbird. The army hasn’t joined the US Navy/US Marine Corps small tactical UAS/Tier II program, but the new strategy calls for a UAS in the same class. The picture above shows the AAI Aerosonde UAS, one of the four competitors for STUAS/Tier II.

The strategy for the aerial ISR family calls for buying four — and perhaps — five new aircraft, including one type — an untethered, hybrid airship — that hasn’t been in the US Military force structure for about 60 years. The hybrid airship is called the long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle. A request for proposals by the army’s space and missile defense command is expected to be issued very soon. Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division, which demonstrated the roughly half-scale P791 hybrid airship in 2006, and UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles plan to compete for the LEMV contract.

This could be the beginning of a long and interesting story as we watch the army attempt to radically transform its aerial ISR capability with a complete family of systems. Getting the funding in the current budget environment could be difficult. The US Senate has recently voted to eliminate all funding next year for the Q400 aerial common sensor.


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One Response to AUSA: Future ‘aerial ISR family’ revealed

  1. Tim D-T 7 October, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

    Uh, Steve, that’s a Shadow, not an Aerosonde.

    Note it’s the exact same photo as this link:


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