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Not so skyrocketing?

Some of the commercially most successful drone manufacturers, hit by the double-whammy of general defence cutbacks and the ending of Operation Enduring Freedom, are recognising that hard times lie ahead. The running down and subsequent withdrawal from Afghanistan of the Nato Isof (International Security Assistance Force), having attempted to bring peace and stability (and an absence of international terrorists) to that virtually ungovernable land, will mark the ending of an era in many respects.

The adventure in Afghanistan may prove to have been the last major colonial-type war. The principal powers will in all likelihood be unwilling ever again to become involved on such a scale and for such duration. As a lifestyle lesson in hopeless endeavours, Afghanistan may have succeeded where Vietnam failed.

However, the recent French-led intervention in Mali suggests that the need for small, time-limited military assistance operations may continue indefinitely, since many developing nations simply cannot afford the internal security measures needed to counter today's armed and wired extremists.

Without the prospect of large-scale neocolonial actions, the massive military demand for conventional armed Male (medium-altitude, long-endurance) drones could be heading for free-fall, although maritime surveillance and commercial use of aircraft in this performance category will continue to grow. Employed by armed forces, such aircraft will also be able to fly peacetime border patrols, but on the outbreak of real war would provide a turkey-shoot for any turboprop trainer with a machine gun.

If ISAF's stay in Afghanistan had been extended, the viability of Male drones would probably have ended with the arrival of shoulder-launched Sams 'liberated' during the civil wars in Libya and Syria. The highly successful employment of these large, slow aircraft over south-west Asia has been possible only through the absence of such weapons on the ground. In the case of Afghanistan, any remaining Raytheon FIM-92 Stingers (donated by the CIA in the 1980s and mostly bought back post-9/11) were time-expired.

Recent operations have also made considerable use of tethered aerostats, but the planned egress from Afghanistan appears to have made military planners wary of investing in large drone airships.

Such aircraft may represent a low-risk approach to a multi-sensor platform that can remain on station far longer than any manned aircraft, and accommodate large antennas that give better imagery than any satellite. However, LTA (lighter-than-air) drones are scenario-critical, and intercontinental deployment would be difficult, expensive and time-consuming.

* NEW SCENARIOS

The winding-down of ISAF will not herald an outbreak of peace in south-west Asia, as India and Pakistan continue their decades-long rivalry (producing a booming local market for drones), and Iran continues with its nuclear ambitions, perceived as a threat by Israel, the US and others with interests in this oil-rich region.

Like North Korea, Iran is currently a driving force behind the development of less-observable surveillance drones, exemplified by the US Air Force Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, which was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 and South Korea in 2009.

The US Air Force currently appears to have abandoned its plan for a seriously stealthy, medium-size multirole drone (MQ-M) to replace its 4762-kg General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper from 2020. Instead, attention has switched to acquiring a reduced-signature jet-powered drone that can be developed quickly, accepting that it will sometimes rely on penetration aids and support jamming, and may be viable for only a limited period of time.

Three examples (some stretched by 1.22 metres) of the jet-powered 8255-kg General Atomics Avenger (Predator-C) are being financed by the manufacturer. The first flew in April 2009, and the second in January 2012. The Avenger has so far been tested to Mach 0.60 and 45,000 ft. In July 2011 the US Air Force ordered one (the fourth built) for delivery in late 2014. The service is considering funding a larger derivative.

Some might argue (and Alenia Aermacchi and Eads/Cassidian may well agree) that, in purchasing ISR drones for overland operation, the major European powers should progress straight from the generation exemplified by the 550-kg Mit Systems Hermes 450, 1022-kg General Atomics MQ-1 Predator-A and 1250-kg IAI Heron I to a jet-powered, more survivable drone, leapfrogging top-of-the-range propeller-driven designs.

Instead, Britain is acquiring the Elbit Systems/Thales U-Tacs Watchkeeper (Hermes 450 development) and increasing its fleet of MQ-9s, while France and Germany are torn between the MQ-9 and slightly lighter (4650 kg) IAI Heron TP.

Although propeller-driven drones can be upgraded with missile approach warning systems and flare dispensers, they will remain vulnerable to gun-armed manned aircraft. In its planning, Europe appears to be thinking more of minimising aircrew losses in neo-colonial interventions, rather than of drone attrition in a re-run of Desert Storm (1991) or Allied Force (1999).

Stealthy surveillance platforms represent only one of several new categories of drones that will be required as the American-led West switches its gaze to the Asia-Pacific region, which will include one near-peer and multiple potential hybrid threats.

In the longer term, stealthy deep-penetration strike assets will be developed, probably including large optionally-manned bombers, to defeat opponents with anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) capabilities. Lower down the scale, the seven-tonne Dassault Neuron, a joint Ucav technology demonstrator project funded by France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, first flew on December 1, 2012. The eight-tonne BAE Systems Taranis, funded by the British Government, is due to fly before the end of 2013.

In 2011 Sukhoi was awarded a contract to develop a strike drone in the 20-tonne class. Sukhoi will be assisted by RAC-MiG, since the latter's ten-tonne Skat (Manta Ray) project of 2007 has been discontinued.

* NAVAL NEEDS

The US Navy is leading the Ucav field, as it lacks a first-day-of-war stealthy strike capability, a deficiency produced by cancellation of the manned MDC/GD A-12 Avenger II programme in 1991. The Ucas-D (Unmanned Combat Air System--Demonstration) programme is now being performed with the 20,215-kg Northrop Grumman X-47B, which is to be deployed aboard the USS George H W Bush (CVN-77) in April/May 2013 for the first at-sea launches and recoveries.

The X-47B is paving the way for the Navy's Uclass (Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike) system, due to enter service around 2020. Uclass was formally approved by the Pentagon in December 2012, and an RFP (requests for proposals) will be issued to industry before the end of 2014. General Atomics is expected to promote its Sea Avenger, with internal weapon bays, folding wings and tail-hook.

Emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region will bring a need for maritime surveillance drones to keep watch on vast areas of ocean, and more urgently on the highly populated waters around south-east Asia, as disputes over various island groups and offshore oil reserves escalate.

The US Navy has also taken the lead in the context of overwater surveillance with the 14,630-kg Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton, which is due to enter service under its Barns (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance) programme in late-2015. The MQ-4C seriously interests India, and may well also satisfy the needs of Asia-Pacific nations such as Australia and Japan. Elsewhere, it may well suit Canada and the UK (among others).

Britain accepted a capability gap in maritime surveillance air assets in 2010, with the withdrawal of the Royal Air Force's Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR2 and cancellation of the BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4. The UK Defence Review of 2015 may well decide that dumping this task on its allies can only be a short-term solution. Orders for both the manned Boeing P-8A Poseidon and unmanned MQ-4C could follow.

However, the Q-4 (Global Hawk) series is expensive, having been developed as the Tier II+ of a three-tier US Air Force system of drones. Tier III was conceptualised as a truly stealthy aircraft that could penetrate hostile airspace undetected.

To digress, as far as is known, the closest that America came to that objective was the Tier III-, the Lockheed Martin RQ-3 DarkStar, which first flew in 1996. The RQ-3 was stealthy, but--grossing only 3860 kg--was too small to generate a useful payload-radius performance. It was terminated in 1999.

Nations such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa have search-and-rescue responsibilities over large areas of ocean, but could not afford the Hale MQ-4C. However, they could all make good use of a high-performance, propeller-driven Male maritime surveillance drone.

While not providing the high altitude capability (and thus radar coverage) of an MQ-4C, aircraft such as the 4763-kg General Atomics Predator-B Maritime Configuration or Guardian turboprop would have an advantage in operational flexibility, in being able to descend and investigate radar contacts.

General Atomics is now marketing the Extended Range Predator-B, with two external tanks, wingtip extensions taking the span from 20.1 to 26.8 metres, and a trailing-link main landing gear, allowing maximum take-off weight to be increased to 5310 kg. These modifications would increase endurance from 27 to 42 hours, and provide a mission radius of 5375 km in the ISR role.

A rival to the ER Predator-B may appear in the form of a new Hale drone from Japan. Although originally motivated by the need to detect and track ballistic missile launches by North Korea and China, this aircraft is also intended to monitor Chinese Navy movements in the East China Sea. It is expected to remain on station for two days at around 45,000 ft. Service entry is planned for FY2020.

Lower down the scale, Elbit Systems' recent intensive promotion of its piston-engined 1180-kg Hermes 900 at Aero India may be seen as evidence of a serious market for dedicated maritime patrol drones.

France's Sagem is now marketing the optionally-manned 1050-kg Patroller with a new version of the Sagem Eurofl ir 350 optronic pod, AIS receiver, and a distress beacon receiver. The Patroller is based on Germany's Stemme $15 motor glider, and provides automatic take-off and landing. It has been extensively tested and can be considered mature for adaptation to customers' needs.

Having delivered the last MQ-1B Predator to the US Air Force in March 2011, General Atomics now offers for export the unarmed Predator-XP, with 35-hour endurance, automatic take-off and landing system (Atls), Lynx radar, high-definition electro-optical sensor and upturned wingtips.

The basic Predator-A is used in small numbers by Italy, Morocco and Turkey. The new unarmed Predator-XP is aimed initially at the Middle East, and only later at Latin America. At IDEX in Abu Dhabi in February 2013, General Atomics showed a full-scale mockup of the XP and announced the sale to the United Arab Emirates of an unspecified number for approximately $ 200 million.

Baseline price for the XP should be around $3.0 million, rising to $6.0 million for the fully equipped maritime patrol version. For comparison, the final (FY2009) batch of MQ-1Bs for the US Air Force cost $190.5 million for 38 aircraft, indicating a unit cost of almost exactly $5.0 million.

In a similar size category, Eads/Cassidian is currently promoting its Harfang (Snowy Owl) version of the IAI Heron, as currently in service with the French Air Force, as the best interim system for other major European countries. This Harfang or Sidm (Systeme Interimaire de Drone Male) is boldly described as the only fielded Male drone produced by a European manufacturer, in service with a European armed force.

* START-UPS

Several hitherto unexplored categories have potential to grow rapidly, though from very low bases. One such is the ship-based rotary-wing drone, which may have made a false start when the 1036-kg Gyrodyne QH-50C entered US Navy service in 1963. The high accident rate suffered by this Dash (Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter) programme put acceptance of ship-based drones back by decades. However, recent advances in robotics and lightweight sensors and weapons have changed perspectives.

In the virtual absence of suitable hardware, navies have been slow to develop operational requirements for ship-based drones. Nonetheless, the US Navy has been running sea trials with the 1430-kg Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout, derived from the manned Sikorsky/Schweizer 333.

It was earlier envisaged that the MQ-8B would lead to the far more capable Mrmuas (Medium-Range Maritime UAS), but this programme has been terminated as an economy measure, in favour of the 2720-kg Northrop Grumman MQ-8C. This transfers the Fire Scout systems to an unmanned version of the Bell 407, providing an intermediate level of capability.

The MQ-8C will evidently not enjoy a monopoly of the international market for ship-based rotary-wing drones, since Boeing has been performing sea trials with the 1610-kg Unmanned Little Bird (ULB). AgustaWestland (which now owns PZL-Swidnik), Eads/Cassidian and Saab (among others) also have serious interests in this market sector.

Britain's Royal Navy has an urgent operational requirement for a drone, able to "track fast moving targets" and provide eight hours on station at 75 km radius. The Coco (contractor-owned, contractor-operated) system is to be operated from its Type 23 frigates and RFA support vessels.

Austria's 200-kg Schiebel Camcopter S-100 (already in ground-based service in various countries, including China) has been trialled by several navies, including those of France, Germany, Pakistan, Russia and (reportedly) China. Schiebel is currently working on the installation of a heavy fuel engine, and integration of new payloads, including the Thales I-Master radar (see more on the S-100 further on in a section dedicated to light rotordrones).

On a lighter scale, L-3 Tactical Systems has been running tests with the 95-kg Valkyrie, an unmanned towed gyroplane that is proposed to extend the visual/radar horizon of ships, primarily against the current pirate threat. The Valkyrie would typically carry a 22 kg payload to a height of up to 1000 ft, extending the horizon to over 60 km.

It may be recalled that in World War Two the Focke-Achgelis Fa 330 Bachstelze (Wagtail) man-carrying gyroplane was towed by some U-boats, rising to around 400ft and allowing ships to be detected at up to 45 km. In the event of surprise air attack, the Fa 330 and its pilot were to be abandoned.

It may be noted that fixed-wing drone operations from small ships have been made practical (for lightweights) by the Skyhook wingtip-to-vertical-cable engagement system pioneered by the highly successful Boeing/Insitu 18-kg ScanEagle and 61-kg RQ-21A Integrator. A Chinese copy of ScanEagle is marketed as the CH-803, and Iran is producing its own version, both projects endorsing the quality of the original design.

Darpa wants to take fixed-wing drone operations from ships to a new level with the Tern (Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node) programme, aimed at Predator-like performance from 25,400-tonne LCS-2 class ships. New launch and recovery concepts will be required to enable a drone to operate from such ships, with a 270 kg payload and a radius of 1110-1650 km. Tern is envisioned as a 40-month programme to achieve full-scale demonstrations.

Even more revolutionary is the Zala Aero Triton concept for a nine-metre unmanned trimaran drone carrier, powered by two 150 kW diesel engines, and operating with up to four air vehicles to a radius of 1400 km. The fixed-wing drones would be launched by catapult and recovered by net. All the Zala fixed-wing series (including the 421-08 and -16E) are being adapted to net recovery.

A second new category with excellent long-term prospects is the rotary-wing (or ducted fan) cargo drone for frontline deliveries of essential supplies, such as food, water, ammunition and batteries, and with potential for casualty evacuation.

Trials by the US Marine Corps with a pair of optionally-manned Lockheed Martin/Kaman Unmanned K-Max aircraft in Afghanistan have recently exceeded 1200-tonnes in terms of loads moved, and over 1200 flight hours. However, it may prove difficult to maintain interest in this programme once the fighting has stopped.

The next step appears to be the five-year US Office of Naval Research (ONR) Aacus (Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System) programme. This will pave the way for fully autonomous operations, the drone selecting its own route and landing point, and avoiding obstacles. Aacus will have provision for internal payloads and longterm potential for casualty evacuation.

The US Army Cargo UAS concept is even more ambitious, being aimed at a larger, faster platform, probably using a new generation of rotorcraft technology, such as the slowed rotor of the 2950-kg Boeing YMQ-18A (A160T Hummingbird).

Meanwhile, the US Army has loaned to Sikorsky a UH-60M Black Hawk for conversion to fly-by-wire control. The company hopes to use this aircraft to demonstrate optionally-piloted resupply missions. Considering the number of older UH-60s in storage, and the very useful size of this aircraft (grossing 10,660 kg), this could well lead to trials on a much larger scale than has been possible with the two K-Max aircraft.

* OFFENSIVE

A third market sector possibly set for take-off is the one-way loiter-attack drone, pioneered by Israel Aerospace Industries (TAI) with the Harpy anti-radiation system and its Harop successor. Increasing interest in such aircraft is suggested by the British Army's IFPA (Indirect Fire Precision Attack) requirement, which led to the new 200-kg Fire Shadow drone being developed by a team partnering MBDA and UK-MoD.

The Harop, incidentally, is still being used as part of a system initially called the Wabep devised by Rheinmetall and involving the use of the KZO drone as the target identifier. Rheinmetall has since divested itself of all direct involvement in drones and has set-up a joint venture with Cassidian, in which Cassidian holds 51% of the stakes. To confuse everybody, the company is called Rheinmetall Airborne Systems, but squats Cassidian's stands at exhibitions, not Rheinmetall's as instanced at the recent Idex exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

Asked by Armada where this programme now stood, a Cassidian said that the ground station had been developed and tested and although the feasibility of the mission had been fully demonstrated no order (presumably full-scale development) has yet been placed by the German authorities.

In Israel, Uvision has recently announced that it was producing modernized versions of the Hero-30 expendable reconnaissance drone, and the Hero-400 loitering attack munition, "responding to market demand". Improvements concern propulsion and power generation.

Formerly known as the Wasp, the Hero 30 is a three-kilo expendable recce drone particularly designed for special forces. A no-maintenance system, the electrically-powered Hero-30 is canister-launched a la mortar and provides its user a 30-minute flight time.

The larger Hero-400, for its part, is the former 40-kilo Blade Arrow and, powered by a petrol engine, can loiter "for hours". Equipped with an eight-kilo warhead, it can attack moving high-value targets at ranges of up to 150 km.

In addition, Uvision is about to introduce a common command and control system for both drones.

In a much heavier class, China's jet-powered Casic WJ-600 looks like a Tomahawk cruise missile with underwing weapons. It was unveiled in 2010, together with a marketing animation showing operation as a truck-launched attack drone against ground and naval targets. Iran's Karrar (Striker), unveiled in 2010, is claimed to be capable of carrying four lightweight anti-ship missiles.

Loiter-attack drones acknowledge the major advances achieved in tactical air defences, and could put air support back in the soldiers' own hands, possibly ending complaints that air forces are interested only in "wild blue yonder" missions.

In December 2012 Boeing carried out a demonstration of the ULB drone helicopter for the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA). Two months later reports appeared that South Korea was considering developing an attack drone based on the 1360-kg MD Helicopters MD500, of which the RoKA has over 200 facing retirement.

The growing capability of small drones has sparked interest in the concept of a highly portable "winged grenade" that could deliver a small warhead with precision over a distance of several thousand metres, possibly loitering en-route, to take out (for example) a sniper or a light vehicle behind a building.

This line of development began with Darpa's CCLR (Close Combat Lethal Recon) project, described officially as a "hand-held, tube-launched, command-guided, loitering cruise munition that will provide the warfighter unprecedented ability of non-line-of-sight target prosecution in urban environments". The system included a "PDA-size soldier interface device for flight planning ... and streaming video-viewing".

The CCLR evidently led to the US Air Force's Lmams (Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System), with a drone that was to weigh less than 1.4 kg and provide a one-metre accuracy. A 30-minute loiter capability was desired.

The products shortlisted for Lmams were the AeroVironment Switchblade, the IATech (Innovative Automation Technologies) Point-And-Toss, and the Textron Defense Systems BattleHawk, which appears to combine a Textron warhead with the Prioria Robotics Maveric drone.

One interesting project that failed to make the cut was the MBDA Tiger (Tactical Grenade Extended Range), with two 40 mm DSE grenades and an inflatable wing by ILC Dover.

The Lmams contest was won by the AV Switchblade, which has reportedly been purchased by the US Air Force, the US Army and US Marine Corps (although it remains absent from all their websites). As with many special forces procurements, the true scale of these programmes and details of operational deployments are difficult to ascertain.

* MINIMALISM

A fourth category that may experience dramatic market growth is what might be termed "the seriously small drone", since "micro" and "nano" have become whatever any manufacturer or operator decides. These devices will clearly be very limited in military utility, but their small size and silent flight make them attractive for covert operations.

The Darpa-funded Nay (Nano Mr Vehicle) programme began in 2005 and led to AeroVironment's remarkable flapping-wing Hummingbird, which weighs 19 grams with batteries, motors, radio and video camera, and can hover for eleven minutes.

Other manufacturers became interested in 'biomimicry', and in early 2012 IAI unveiled its twelve-gram, four-wing Butterfly. In 2009 Norway's Prox Dynamics demonstrated during a UVS International conference its 16-gram PD-100 Dark Hornet miniature helicopter, which has an endurance of 30 minutes.

In 2012 Dark Hornet entered service with the British Army and Royal Air Force in Afghanistan, validating its maker's claim to have produced "the world's first operational Nano (drone) system". An initial batch of 160 units was purchased by UK-MoD. The total through-life cost, including logistic support, personnel training, documentation and attrition reserve drones is expected to amount to around $ 32 million.

(At the end of 2012 the British drone fleet in Afghanistan consisted of 64 Black Hornets, five Reapers, nine Hermes 450s, 239 Lockheed Martin Desert Hawk Ills and 18 Honeywell RQ-16A T-Hawks. The UK-MoD has recently admitted that in the previous five years its drone losses in south-west Asia have amounted to one Reaper, nine Hermes 450s, 412 Desert Hawk Ms and a combined total of 25 Black Hornets and 1-Hawks).

While considerable efforts are now directed at measures (such as sense-and-avoid radars) that will allow drones to operate in controlled airspace, some military authorities are exempting aircraft below 50 grams from safety regulations. It is argued that the kinetic energy of such devices is so small that they are virtually incapable of inflicting damage.

The remainder of this report examines the principal current drone categories in more detail, starting with long-endurance systems that exploit fully the absence of a human crew.

One way to achieve extreme endurance is to accelerate the platform to orbital speed. For example, Boeing has constructed two 4990-kg X-37B reusable spaceplanes for the US Air Force, although the purpose of these drones (beyond providing a technological basis for future spaceplanes) has not been revealed. Launched by a United Launch Alliance Saturn V rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, these X-37Bs have carried out several missions, including one by the second vehicle (OTV-2) that ended in June 2012 after 469 days in low earth orbit.

* LTA

A far less expensive means to achieve long endurance is to use a lighter-than-air drone.

Lockheed Martin was prime contractor for the US Army's Hale-D (High Altitude Long Endurance--Demonstrator) solar-powered LTA drone, which was designed to stay aloft for 15 days at 60,000 ft. It was launched in July 2007, but suffered a technical anomaly (reportedly a helium leak) at 32,000 ft, leading to termination of the flight and the programme. The Hale-D was a subscale demonstrator for an airship that would stay at 65,000 ft for over 30 days.

The US Air Force's Mav6 Blue Devil 2 (BD2) optionally-manned airship was based on the Tcom Polar 100. The BD2 was promoted by Lt-Gen David Deptula, Mav6 CEO and earlier principal planner for the "shock-and-awe" air operations that launched Desert Storm. It was intended to stay at 20,000 ft for nine days. The BD2 was scheduled to fly in October 2011 and self-deploy to Afghanistan in February 2012.

However, concerns over weather and overflight clearance for various countries led to a revised plan, to transport the BD2 inside a hangar on a specially modified ship. The programme was cancelled in May 2012 due to poor performance, before it had left the ground.

The more ambitious US Army-funded Lemv (Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle) was planned as an 18-month programme, from contract signature in June 2010 to deployment to Afghanistan in late 2011.

The Lemv is an optionally-manned hybrid airship, using a combination of buoyancy and aerodynamic lift. It was designed by Northrop Grumman in partnership with the UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles. The hull was manufactured by ILC Dover, using fabric produced by Warwick Mills. The design aim was to stay at 22,000 ft for 21 days with a 1250 kg payload.

In the event, the Lemv had its maiden flight only on August 7, 2012, a timescale incompatible with the end-2014 US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The programme was cancelled on February 14, 2013, "due to technical and performance challenges, and the limitations imposed by constrained resources".

Nonetheless, if Northrop Grumman successfully demonstrates the performance advantages claimed for hybrid airships, there are commercial concerns waiting to piggyback on this line of development.

There is serious commercial interest in using cargo airships to transport large loads to remote, undeveloped regions, rather than constructing expensive airfields that will see little use. Companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, having been involved in earlier airship projects, may well come back to this line of business. At a later stage the military market could well piggyback on commercial hybrid airship developments.

Before leaving the LTS category, it maybe added that Darpa's Isis (Integrated Sensor Is Structure) programme, aimed at a solar-electric airship to remain at 70,000 ft for ten years, is not necessarily dead. Plans for a half-scale demonstrator by Lockheed Martin have been put on hold, but Darpa is reportedly still talking with the US Air Force.

Caption: The Anka, with its almost 100% "Turkish inside" sounds like an interesting proposition for those nations wishing to remain independent of the other two suppliers in that class

Caption: This US Air Force General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper was pictured on patrol over southern Afghanistan, armed with four Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and two GBU-12 laser-guided bombs. (US Air Force)

Caption: Also known as the Elton, the Heron TP is not just a larger Heron as its general outline might suggest, but a much, much bigger aircraft with a 26-metre wingspan and 14-metre length compared with the Heron's respective 16 metres and 8.6 metres. This full-scale mock-up pictured at a Paris Air Show keeps good company to a number of systems including La/at air-to-ground missiles. (Eric H. Blass)

Caption: The first catapult launch of the Northrop Grumman X-478 took place at the US Navy's Patuxent River Naval Air Warfare Center in Maryland on November 29th, 2012. (Northrop Grumman/Kelly Schindler)

Caption: After showing its ability to be catapulted into the air, the X-478 has passed another critical milestone on May 4 at Patuxent Naval Air Station by showing its ability to catch an arrestor cable on landing. (Northrop Grumman)

Caption: The first Northrop Grumman MQ-4C, serial 168457 was unveiled at Palmdale, California, on June 14, 2012, when the US Navy formally named it Triton. Note the ventral radome, which (aside from the paint scheme) distinguishes the MQ-4C from US Air Force RQ-4A/Bs. (Northrop Grumman)

Caption: Bearing a civil registration but not an Israeli Air Force serial, suggesting a trials installation aircraft, this Elbit Systems Hermes 900 is equipped with a maritime surveillance radar in addition to its EO/IR turret. (Elbit Systems)

Caption: One of the principal contenders in the maritime surveillance category is the Sagem Patrollet; an optionally-piloted version of the Stemme 515 motor glider, with a Sagem Euroflir 350 EO/IR sensor turret, AIS receiver and distress beacon sensor. (Sagem)

Caption: This Israeli Defence Force IAI Heron is equipped with on Elta Systems EL/M-2022U maritime surveillance radar, which weighs 114 kg and transmits 2300 Watts. (Israel Aerospace Industries)

Caption: Photographed during a demonstration for the Republic of Korea Army, the Boeing ULB (Unmanned Little Bird) is optionally piloted. Boeing is now promoting a growth version, based on the AH/MH-6M, with a six-blade main rotor and four-blade tail rotor. (Korean Air)

Caption: In Russia, the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 is known as the Gorizont A-100 where it was tested by the Russian coast guards. (Schiebel)

Caption: China's only rotary-wing drone on the market appears to be the 220-kg U8E, the existence of which was revealed at Singapore in 2070, with only basic data and no indication of the manufacturer. (CATIC)

Caption: The Boeing/Insitu RQ-2 7A Integrator weighs over twice as much as the company's earlier, highly successful SconEagle. An Integrator is shown on the deck of the USS Mesa Verde, amphibious transport dock LPD-19, in early 207 3. (US Navy)

Caption: Another advanced helicopter technology is illustrated by the Boeing YMQ-18A or A160T Hummingbird, which in cruise slows the main rotor to delay compressibility effects on the advancing blade. (Boeing)

Caption: The MBDA Fire Shadow is a 200 kg loiter-attack drone developed for the British Army. It has a maximum endurance of six hours at 700 km radius. Deliveries began in early 2012, and a naval version has been projected. (MBDA)

Caption: The Hero-400, from Israel, would be a typical commando drone. It can loiter "for hours" according to manufacturer Uvision, before being sent into a dive attack, even against a moving target. (Uvision)

Caption: The Prioria Maveric is a lightweight tube-launched, command-guided air vehicle that sends back imagery to the controller's hand-held monitor. It is used with a Textron warhead to form the Textron Defense Systems Battlehawk drone. (Prioria Robotics)

Caption: The US Army-funded Northrop Grumman Lemv (Long-Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle) is a hybrid airship, combining aerodynamic lift with buoyancy. Delays set it back too late to deploy to Afghanistan, and it was cancelled in February 2013. (Northrop Grumman)

Caption: The P0-700 Black Hornet is an electrically-powered miniature helicopter weighing only 16 grams. It has an endurance o130 minutes and was first demonstrated publicly in 2009. (Prox Dynamics)
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Author:Biass, Eric; Braybrook, Roy
Publication:Armada International
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Jun 1, 2013
Words:5103
Previous Article:Mobile ABM systems to protect downrange forces.
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