AUVSI: L-3 keeps quiet on Viking 400 progress

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L-3 Communications can't say much about the Viking 400 at this year's AUVSI North America expo, other than US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) seems pleased.

"The system is doing well, performing well," says David Duggan, L-3's vice president of business development for the company's unmanned sector. "I wish I could tell you more."

SOCOM signed a five-year $250 million deal for the Viking 400 for the Expeditionary Unmanned Aircraft System program in late 2009. The Viking family of UAVs was L-3's entre into the medium tactical unmanned aerial vehicle market with the purchase of BAI in late 2004.

l3 viking 400, billypix
 © Billypix

Viking is only one prong in L-3's ongoing three-pronged approach to the UAV market says Duggan. The company is also displaying a full-sized model of the Cutlass, a small, expendable UAV designed by L-3 in partnership with Airborne Technologies - which L-3 is acquiring as of last week.

The third part of L-3's unmanned plan is to break into the medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) business with the Mobius optionally piloted aircraft. Mobius flew in last year's AUVSI North America flight demonstrations at Webster Field outside Washington, D.C. "We have a scale model for Denver," Duggan said. "The aircraft this year are all tied up with flight testing."

In addition to its own three platforms, "We've got components on every major program of record out there, so we'll be well represented at AUVSI," Duggan says.

Much of L-3's work this year is a continuation of campaign's started at the 2009 show. "We really started the drumbeat at last year's AUVSI. Since then, [we] have had tremendous success, penetrating the UAV business with our platforms. I can say from our perspective, our systems - the Cutlass, Viking and Mobius - are all maturing rapidly," Duggan says. "This year, [we] want to show we're here, we're growing, we're continuing to pursue our strategy."