A competitive fly-off for a $900 million US Army contract for a medium altitude unmanned air vehicle is showcasing one of the first applications of UAVs equipped with heavy-fuel engines and involves the release of inert weapons.

The army is staging separate three-week capability demonstration events at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, for the two competing teams vying for the Extended-Range/Multi-Purpose (ERMP) UAV, a mainly surveillance vehicle with an optional armed mission.

A General Atomics-led team proposing a Predator B-based Warrior vehicle will start a capability demonstration later this month. Northrop Grumman, which is proposing the Heron-derived Hunter II vehicle, is planning to complete an 18-day series of ground and flight trials on 15 February.

The Hunter II demonstration involves three vehicles, including one equipped with a newly integrated heavy-fuel engine that provides about 30% more horsepower than the conventional Rotax-powered Heron vehicles, says Rick Crooks, a Northrop business development manager for Hunter II.

Bill McCall, Hunter II programme manager, adds that the Hunter II is fitted with a Boeing Future Combat System-compliant communications package that includes a tactical common datalink, providing a link to a tactical internet with ground forces.

The demonstration involves a series of six flights, including five that are planned by the army and one that is proposed by the contractor. The army is expected to make a downselect to one contractor in mid-April.


Source: Flight International