Sky-X with new fuselage shape and more blended engine intake will start test flights in Sweden next month

Alenia's Sky-X unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) technology demonstrator will undergo its first test flight at Sweden's Vidsel range next month, before being exhibited at June's Paris air show.

The recently unveiled demonstrator differs from a mock-up presented by Alenia in mid-2003 through the use of a new fuselage shape and a more blended engine intake, but it retains the original concept's stealthy wing and V-tail configuration.

The new fuselage's angled underside offers the possibility of accommodating a larger payload bay and provides improved stealth characteristics, says Piero Antonio Fantino, Alenia's Sky-X programme manager.

The demonstrator is 6.84m (22.4ft) long with a 5.74m wing span and has a maximum take-off weight of over 1,100kg (2,430lb), including a payload of up to 200kg. The aircraft is powered by a Microturbo TRI60-5/268 turbojet and has a maximum speed of Mach 0.7. Developed and produced by an integrated team in less than 18 months since a ?25 million ($32.1 million) definition phase was launched in October 2003, the Sky-X design uses advanced manufacturing and material technologies, such as laser welding for its wing box and metal/carbon composite material for its wing leading edges, says chief engineer Riccardo Barzan.

Alenia has also developed the demonstrator's ground control station and datalinks and has produced an engineering flight simulator and rig to test the guidance and control system using an Aermacchi SF260 surrogate aircraft during two flying campaigns conducted earlier this year. The effort has been backed by Italian companies including Magnaghi, Moreggia, Oma Sud, Quadrics, Secondo Mona, Tema, Teseo and Vitrociset and the USA's Athena Technologies and Butler.

Fantino says the flight test and payload demonstration phase could evolve to support the Dassault-led Neuron UCAV demonstrator project, in which Alenia is a partner. The Italian company's chief executive Giovanni Bertolone says it is also evaluating possible involvement in the French-German EuroMale medium-altitude/long-endurance unmanned air vehicle programme.


Source: Flight International