THE FATE OF the US Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV) programme is to be decided on 22 November by Paul Kaminiski, the US Department of Defense's acquisition chief.

If he approves a formal request for proposals for an advanced- concept technology-demonstration project, the fast-track acquisition programme will finally get under way.

Kaminiski's endorsement was expected earlier in the month, but delayed, possibly because of problems with the $4 billion TRW/ Israel Aircraft Industries Hunter short-range joint tactical UAV programme. The Pentagon is determining whether to follow a recommendation by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council to terminate the project. Meanwhile, the Hunter UAV remains grounded because of previous crashes.

The UAV Joint Project Office has issued a new Request for Information which details required performance parameters for the TUAV.

The Pentagon could buy as many as 100 systems - each with four air vehicles, two ground-control stations, two ground data terminals, one remote video terminal, four modular mission payloads, launch and recovery equipment and support equipment. It would be fielded with US Army and US Marine Corps combat units.

The Pentagon is seeking an off-the-shelf UAV, with day/night imaging sensor, which costs no more than $300,000 per air vehicle. A synthetic, aperture radar may be added to the required electro-optical/infra-red payload. The close-range UAV system must give battlefield commanders real-time intelligence data. It must also be inter-operable with other UAV systems.

The TUAV must have a minimum range of 50km (30nm), but a range of 275km is desired. A target-location error factor of 100m (330ft) is acceptable, but 25m is preferred. The minimum on-station endurance time is 3h.

It must be able to be launched from rough terrain, but the Pentagon desires a vehicle, which can also be launched from warships. The UAV system must fit on two High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles and one trailer, and be capable of being transported by a single Lockheed Martin C-130 military transport.

Potential bidders were asked how they might adapt their air vehicle for shipboard use. The Pentagon also requested life cycle cost analyses of candidate drones.

General Atomics, a declared TUAV competitor, has teamed with Boeing to bid with the Prowler UAV. Northrop Grumman, with the UK's Target Technology Vehicle and the Tamam Unit of Israel Aircraft Industries, is also in the contest.

Westinghouse is offering the Huntair, while Alliant Techsystems/ Mission Technologies is competing with the Twin-wing. Lear Astronics/Canadair is offering the CL-227 Sentinel. A Raytheon/ AAI team is offering the Shadow 200 air vehicle.

Source: Flight International