A LARGE FIELD OF competitors has turned out for the US Department of Defense's Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV) competition.

The Pentagon will pick the contractor for a two-year advanced concept-technology demonstration before the end of April. Full production calls for 73 systems for the US Army, Marine Corps and Navy.

The TUAV will carry electro-optical and infra-red imagery sensors. The UAV Joint Project Office wants the TUAV to be flown 200km (110nm) and to stay on station for at least 3h.

The TUAV has taken on greater importance with cancellation of the $4 billion TRW/Israel Aircraft Industries Hunter short-range-UAV procurement. Most competitors are offering fixed-wing UAVs, but one proposes a vertical-take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle.

With Northrop Grumman's recent acquisition of Westinghouse's defence business, the US defence contractor is offering two UAV systems. Westinghouse's Huntair has made a bid, along with a second bid from Northrop Grumman, teamed with the UK's Target Technology (TTL) and the Tamam Unit of IAI. The latter system incorporates TTL's Spectre drone with an Israeli-built sensor.

As systems integrator, E-Systems is teamed with AAI, which will provide a modified Shadow 200 UAV. Other declared entrants include Alliant Techsystems/Mission Technologies and Boeing/General Atomics.

The VTOL contender is Lear Astronics, offering a substantially improved Bombardier Canadair CL-227 Sentinel. The Puma has an up-rated engine, larger rotor system, improved aerodynamics and increased payload and fuel capacity to meet the TUAV requirements.

The Williams WTS125 turbo-shaft engine powering the latest CL-227 is used, but the gearbox is up-rated from 45kW (60shp) to take the engine's full 85kW output. Additional fuel is stored in the below-rotor payload module. The upper power plant and lower payload modules are streamlined, to improve forward speed.

Source: Flight International