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This article was Originally Published on Aug 25, 2005 in Volume: 4  Issue: 2

Scouting for Future Combat

Contracts fund development of UAVs for Army Future Combat System.

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Three premier industry partners have been selected to participate in the first phase of development for two classes of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program. The UAVs, which are intended as an integral part of the FCS system-of-systems solution, are slated for fielding in 2014 with the first fully equipped FCS brigade-sized combat teams.

The contracts, awarded by Boeing, teamed with Science Applications International Corporation as the FCS lead systems integrator (LSI), range in value from $3 million to $5 million. Piasecki Aircraft received a contract for development of its Class II UAV Air Scout system. Contracts for development of the larger Class III UAV system were awarded to Teledyne Brown Engineering for its Prospector, AAI for its Shadow III and to Piasecki Aircraft Corp. for its Air Guard.

Class II and III UAV development will be carried out in three phases, with the FCS LSI and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) developing different technologies in tandem until a final candidate system is selected for both FCS UAV classes. For the Class II solution, DARPA initiated the Organic Air Vehicle II (OAV II) program, strictly focused on ducted fan technology, while the LSI will evaluate an alternative non-ducted fan approach. Similarly, for Class III, DARPA is investing in rotorcraft technology while the LSI will be investigating gyrocopter and fixed wing designs.

The Class II UAV system will provide reconnaissance, security/early warning, target acquisition at the company level in support of line-of-sight, beyond-line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight engagements, including target designation for beyond-line-of-sight engagements. It will be vehicle mounted, capable of taking off and landing in unimproved areas and provide enhanced dedicated imagery, accomplishing its mission while being autonomously controlled or cued remotely by Army personnel.

The larger Class III UAV system will have greater endurance and a larger payload-carrying capacity than the Class II system. It will be a multifunction aerial combat support system capable of providing reconnaissance, communications relay, security/early warning, target acquisition and designation and minefield detection at the battalion level. The Class III UAV system also will provide remote reconnaissance and terrain information, and be capable of taking off and landing in unimproved areas.

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