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AUVSI: Skunk Works reveals new depth of past UAV effort

Over the past 10 years, Lockheed Martin has drawn criticism for lacking a high-profile unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

But new disclosures here provide new depth on Skunk Works' activity behind closed doors.

Nine months after the US Air Force declassified the Lockheed RQ-170 Sentinel, the company's advanced development programmes division revealed two two never-seen-before aircraft designs.

The multi-purpose long endurance (MPLE - pronounced "maple") concept drawing grew out of a previous design study on a significantly larger aircraft, says Skunk Works systems engineer Bob Ruszkowski.

Lockheed's exhibit booth also displayed a UAS concept called the multi-role endurance (MRE) aircraft, which actually came out of a study completed nearly a decade ago for a carrier-based aircraft, Ruszkowski says.

Both designs were unveiled as Lockheed pursues contracts previously seen as targets for other companies.

The MAPL is aimed at capturing a demonstration contract for an ultra-long-endurance, medium-altitude UAS, which is also being sought by the Aurora Flight Sciences Orion. MRE, meanwhile, is representative of an aircraft Lockheed could offer for the US Navy's carrier-based surveillance and strike UAS concept.

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