An ambitious programme to demonstrate unmanned combat armed rotorcraft (UCAR) able to collaborate autonomously with manned helicopters is under threat. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) still plans to pick either Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman next month to build the UCAR demonstrators, but its army partner has yet to provide the funding for the next phase of the programme.
Teams led by the two companies have completed Phase 2 of the UCAR programme, performing demonstrations of key technologies. The contractors submitted their Phase 3 proposals in August and will complete their Phase 2 final reports at the end of September.
Funding for Phase 3 has become embroiled in a US Army re-evaluation of its unmanned air vehicle programmes (Flight International, 17-23 August). "DARPA is committed to Phase 3," says Don Woodbury, UCAR programme manager. "We are working through the financial issues with the army. Money is the issue."
Under Phase 3, the winning team would build two UCAR air vehicles for flight demonstrations, with the first flight planned for late 2006. A third demonstrator, with 60-80% of the capability planned for the operational UCAR, would fly in mid-2008 under Phase 4.
There is concern that the US Army does not want to be seen funding the survivable UCAR after cancelling the stealthy Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche.
GRAHAM WARWICK / WASHINGTON DC
Source: Flight International