L3 BAI Aerosystems says it is in limited series production of its newly unveiled ‘Viking’ medium tactical series of UAVs for an unnamed US military customer, believed to be the US Special Forces Command (SOCOM).
SOCOM has previously acquired significant numbers of the company’s ‘Tern’ and ‘Evolution’ UAV series. Tern production has now been set aside in favour of Viking the company says, with three models making their public debut at last month’s Unmanned Systems North America exhibition in Orlando, Florida.
The company also exhibited an upgraded version of its Evolution hand launched close range system, featuring a miniature stabilised sensor turret and twin three blade propellers. The existing Evolution system is a modified US Naval Research Laboratory designed ‘Dragon Eye’ air vehicle and carries two fixed focal length staring cameras and uses twin blade propellers. The new turret system is fully gimballed and introduces a distinctive hump into the UAV upper forward fuselage
The Viking series comprises three modular, pusher configuration air vehicles. Less than 100 of each variant have been manufactured thus far the company says. As well as replacing Tern, the new UAVs also supersede the company’s ‘Isis’ and ‘Tern-P’ tactical development programmes which were respectively first made public in 2003 and 2004. The company says that it commenced development of three Viking versions two years ago in response to firm orders from the unnamed customer.
Viking 100 has a 3.65m wingspan and a maximum takeoff weight of 68kg. Payload weight is placed at 9kg. The UAV is powered by a 16hp two stroke engine and has an endurance of 6-8h at a cruise speed of 50kt.
Viking 300 has a 5.33m span and is powered by a 25hp twin cylinder two-stroke engine. Endurance is placed at 8-10h at a cruise speed of 56kt. The UAV has a maximum take-off weight of 144kg, with payload capacity placed around 13.5kg. Air vehicle empty weight is 95.2kg. The airframe differs slightly from the 100 and 400 series models with a more boxlike central fuselage.
The Viking 300 displayed at the exhibition carried a laser radar sensor payload being developed by the Orlando, Florida-based H.N. Burns Engineering Corporation. L3 BAI says the 17kg sensor is being explored as a potential detection system for improvised explosive devices with some flight testing currently being carried out.
Viking 400 has a span of 7.31m and has an endurance of 10-12h at a cruise speed of 56kt. The engine is a 34hp two stroke. Maximum take-off weight is 223.6kg, while empty weight is 120kg. Payload capacity is placed at 27kg.
All three versions have a nominal 50-75km radius of operations. The three models also share the same autopilot and flight control systems, and GCS.
The series includes the same deep tricycle undercarriage fitted to Tern and can also use that UAV type’s large wheels to enable conventional takeoff and landings in rough terrain. Tern was initially developed to support delivery and positioning of remotely operated ground-based intelligence sensors and saw extensive operational use during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2002.
BAI says that it has developed a common catapult launch and parafoil recovery systems for the three Viking types to support confined space operations.