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US Army axes UAV projects

Two of the four unmanned air vehicles under development for the US Army's Future Combat System (FCS) have been cancelled, following a 13-month study of the service's UAV requirements. The company-level Class II and battalion-level Class III systems have been dropped, writes Graham Warwick.

Surviving the mix analysis are the Aerovironment Raven B small UAV, the brigade-level AAI Shadow 200 and the division-level General Atomics Warrior. The US Army will continue development of the Honeywell Micro Air Vehicle as the FCS Class I platoon-level UAV and the Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout as the brigade-level Class IV system.

Three designs were competing for the Class II requirement: the Aurora Flight Systems Golden Eye 80 and Honeywell Organic Air Vehicle ducted-fan UAVs, and the Piasecki Air Scout with tandem shrouded rotors. Four designs were officially competing for the Class III programme: the AAI Shadow 300 and Teledyne Brown Prospector fixed-wing systems, the Dragonfly Pictures DP-5X rotary-wing UAV and Piasecki's Air Guard gyrocopter.

The Aurora and Honeywell Class II UAVs are being developed under the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Organic Air Vehicle II programme, for which no stop-work order has been received, says Aurora. The DP-5X is also a DARPA programme, but other candidates were being funded by FCS lead systems integrators Boeing and SAIC.

The army says datalinks that are an integral part of its FCS will allow the ducted-fan platoon-level Class I and rotary-wing brigade-level Class IV UAVs to provide enough information through the network for the Class II and III systems to be dispensed with.

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