The Tactical Control System (TCS) being developed to operate the US Department of Defense's family of tactical unmanned air vehicles (TUAV) was successfully tested recently with the Alliant Techsystems Outrider.

Two separate Outrider flights were conducted in early February at the company's flight operations centre in Texas. The tactical drone was launched and recovered by a ground control system developed for the UAV. Control of Outrider and its electro-optical/infrared payload was then handed over to TCS for the flights, which lasted two hours.

TCS has already been tested with the Predator, Prowler and GNAT-750 UAVs made by General Atomics. The next step for TCS will be full function and control of a Predator UAV, including takeoff and landing, in a flight test scheduled for June.

The TCS programme continues to proceed towards an engineering, manufacturing, and development (EMD) decision in the third quarter of fiscal year 1999. TCS will then be fielded with the Predator medium altitude endurance UAV and the tactical UAVs procured by the US military, beginning in 2000. TCS will also be able to receive and disseminate payload information from the Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical Global Hawk UAV.

Meanwhile, the future of the Outrider remains in the hands of the Defense Department's Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) which is expected to soon determine the future course of the US Army's troubled TUAV programme.

Outrider was to have been procured by the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps, but late last year the JROC allowed the Army and Navy/USMC to buy an alternative VTOL UAV system.

Requirements for the future TUAV will not be firmed up until the operational requirements document drafted four years ago is updated with inputs from field commanders, the US Army says.

Source: Flight International