General Atomics is planning series of 24h sorties in Alaska as request for proposals looms

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is advancing flight trials of its Mariner unmanned air vehicle demonstrator, in support of Lockheed Martin's bid to win the US Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) contest.

The company late last month conducted an initial test of the aircraft with a Raytheon-developed electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) payload and SeaVue multimode maritime radar. The latter was housed in a centreline pod beneath the demonstrator, which combines a General Atomics Predator B fuselage with the lengthened wing from the company's Altair UAV.

The platform was flown under Level 4 control from the US Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command centre in San Diego during the recent series of proving flights, Stephen May, General Atomics' business development manager, told delegates at the inaugural Flight International/AUVSI Unmanned Systems Europe conference in Berlin on 6-7 May.

For its next capability demonstration, the UAV will in June be deployed to Alaska for nine 24h sorties, equipped with a Telephonics-supplied APS-143B maritime radar and a Wescam EO/IR sensor.

If selected for the BAMS requirement, the production-standard Mariner will also feature a conformal fuel tank to increase endurance.

The navy is due next month to issue a request for proposals. Other UAVs being promoted for the requirement include Northrop Grumman's RQ-4 Global Hawk and RQ-8 Fire Scout, plus an unmanned version of Gulfstream's G550.

Already on order for the US Air Force, the Predator B has demonstrated a flight endurance of 32h at altitudes up to 50,000ft (15,340m). General Atomics' I-Gnat ER UAV has been operational with the US Army in Iraq since March, May says.



Source: Flight International