#AUVSI: Skunk Works elaborates on UAVs

Lockheed Martin’s advanced development programs division — aka Skunk Works — has chosen AUVSI to lift the curtain on two previously internal concepts for new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The multi-purpose long-endurance (MPLE=pronounced “maple”) was identified on this blog on Monday, but only by acronym. The artist’s concept of the twin-boomed UAV with a high-aspect ratio wing hinted at the aircraft’s mission, which Lockheed has now confirmed.

MPLE will challenge the Aurora Flight Sciences’ Orion vehicle for a new Air Force Research Laboratory contract to demonstrate a medium-altitude surveillance aircraft that can remain airborne for five days, says Bob Ruszkowski, a Skunk Works systems engineer. Ruszkowski declined to clarify MPLE’s propulsion system, although he ruled out a hydrogen-fueled aircraft. MPLE is actually a scaled-down version of a much larger concept design developed by Skunk Works, he adds.

Meanwhile, Skunk Works also described its approach to the US Navy’s new requirement for an unmanned, carrier-launched, airborne surveillance and strike (UCLASS) system. A request for information issued by the navy in May called for concepts that were “heavy on the surveillance mission, and light on the strike”, Ruszkowski says. Lockheed is waiting for the navy to release a draft request for proposals in October to further clarify the requirements.

Ruszkowski says Skunk Works will leverage technology developed for the RQ-170 Sentinel and the F-35C carrier variant for the UCLASS mission. To illustrate the company’s long interest in carrier-based UAVs, Skunk Works unveiled a new photo of a nearly forgotten UAV concept called the multi-role endurance (MRE) UAV (shown above). Flightglobal published a story about the MRE program 10 years ago, using a completely different image for the Lockheed concept. 

Lockheed’s MRE concept would have been able to lift a 2,000lb sensor or weapon payload and remain airborne for 12 to 14h, Ruszkowski says.

Photos courtesy of Lockheed Martin


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3 Responses to #AUVSI: Skunk Works elaborates on UAVs

  1. Dave 25 August, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    Did they mention if they’re still teamed with Northrop Grumman for the UCLASS?

  2. Stephen Trimble 25 August, 2010 at 7:10 pm #

    Lockheed is teamed with Northrop on UCAS-D. UCLASS teams have not been released, to my knowledge.

  3. Dave 25 August, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    I had something about that on background… but never got 100% confirmation.

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