Full-rate production of the US Army AAI Shadow 200 tactical unmanned air vehicle (TUAV) may be delayed by up to a year.

Five unrelated accidents have prompted suspension of Shadow's initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) and creation of an independent review team headed by Hans Mark, a former NASA administrator, to make recommendations on the future of the $300 million project.

The group has yet to issue its final report, but project officials predict they will recommend resumption of testing and ultimately full-rate production because of the nature of the mishaps, which are considered non-systemic. The full-rate production decision was due before the end of this year, but will probably slip into late 2002.

IOT&E was to run for two weeks in May at Fort Hood, Texas. But the critical flight testing, which must be successfully completed before a full-rate production decision, was reduced to a limited user test. The first accident, which happened before IOT&E, resulted from oil starvation and was determined to be a maintenance error. Two other crashes were related to procedural mistakes. The fourth was blamed on carburettor icing.

A Shadow 200 also left the runway when the UAV's landing hook missed the arresting line. AAI is reworking the hook and making other design changes.

Shadow 200 flight-testing resumed in July, and all five air vehicles have been repaired and restored to flight status. IOT&E could resume in November, but officials believe May is more likely. AAI continues to deliver Shadow 200 systems under low-rate initial production contracts.

Each Shadow system has four air vehicles, a ground control station and related equipment. The US Army plans to acquire 44 systems.

Source: Flight International