Lockheed Martin says its bid for the US Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) requirement has the potential to allow that service to evolve its concepts of operation to incorporate tactical level missions.

It says its technical solution, based on the General Atomics Mariner unmanned air vehicle, will be capable of being rapidly transitioned between altitudes and roles depending on requirements

Thomas Lewis, maritime surveillance enterprise director with Lockheed Martin MS2 Tactical Systems, says the UAV will offer the USN a more flexible solution - "an integrated tactical reconnaissance asset of the fleet as opposed to a high-altitude surveillance asset".

He says that the UAV wing, derived from General Atomics' Altair version of the Predator B, was assessed by Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Programmes - better known as Skunk Works - to ensure it would be capable of meeting the wider range of mission profiles.

The Skunk Works also evaluated the proposed use of a Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop, with this resulting in a decision to carry out "minor modifications" to the engine to provide improved power, meaning better transit speeds and performance in heavy winds.

Lewis has also clarified that the cruise speed for the UAV will be 190kt (350km/h), while its dash speed will be 230kt.

The UAV will be capable of descending at a rate of 1,000ft/min (5.08m/s) he says, meaning rapid mission profile changes can be executed in response to potential target detections. General Atomics flew its Altair UAV in similar profiles during exercises conducted for the USN during 2006, Lewis says, with this including demonstration of stability and security of datalinks at all altitudes.

An integral weapons capability derived from the Predator B would allow the UAV to conduct analysis and prosecution as well as high-altitude persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance if the USN desires he says.

The wing incorporates an active de-icing system, although Lewis declines to provide details. "We are moving energy across the wing to deal with icing," he says.

Lockheed is proposing meeting all USN mission requirements with a core fleet of 25 UAVs, broken up into groups of five to meet global deployment requirements.

Lewis says the company now expects a source selection in the November timeframe rather than the USN project office's plan for October.

If unsuccessful, Lockheed will continue to pursue market opportunities in co-operation with General Atomics. "There is still opportunity there but clearly our focus today in winning the USN BAMS programme," it says.

Source: Flight International