Jet-powered Kingfisher II intended to challenge Fire Scout for LCS support role
Vought Aircraft Industries is studying the feasibility of launching its first all-new aircraft in decades, proposing a seaplane unmanned air vehicle concept to the US Navy called the Kingfisher II.
Vought seeks to enter the UAV market with a design that offers an alternative to the USN's plans to support the future Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) with helicopter UAVs – namely, the Northrop Grumman RQ-8B Fire Scout.
"We want to support ships, too, but don't want to take off vertically," says Chris Wilt, Vought's business development director for research, development and technology programmes.
An infant technology programme, backed by a small grant from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is seeking tools for makingautonomous take-offs and landings on the water, which the company believes would be a breakthrough capability in the UAV field.
Flying demonstrations later this year using a manned surrogate aircraft are intended to stir interest in follow-on funding by DARPA or the USN to fund more basic engineering work and perhaps develop a prototype.
Vought is also seeking to partner a prime contractor for full-scale development. Talks have started with Lockheed Martin.
The jet-powered Kingfisher II would be Vought's first new-start since the A-7 Corsair in the 1960s. Performance projections are based on an above-fuselage-mounted 4,100lb-thrust (18kN) Pratt & Whitney Canada PW525B. The concept calls for a 250kt (460km/h) cruise speed at 20,000ft (6,100m) with a 2,500lb (1,135kg) payload.
"The wingspan would measure 41ft, with overall length about 38ft," says Wilt.
The design calls for retractable wingtip floats, variable incidence/variable camber wings and all-flying V tail. The payload is optimised to carry a surveillance package and a 750lb Mk54 torpedo, says Wilt.
STEPHEN TRIMBLE/WASHINGTON DC
Source: Flight International