28 Jun 11. The U.S. Army is participating in a U.S. Navy analysis of alternatives (AOA) to determine whether both services’ requirements for vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft can be met by a joint program. The Army has provided an addendum to the Navy-led study “to see if the need is for two separate programs or a joint program,” says Tim Owings, acting program manager for Army UAVs. The AOA is expected to take six months. The Army, meanwhile, will imminently release a request for information to find out what VTOL unmanned systems might be available. The Boeing A160T Hummingbird and Lockheed Martin/Kaman K-Max, already being evaluated by the Navy Department for unmanned resupply of Marine Corps forward operating bases in Afghanistan, are among the candidates. The Northrop Grumman/Bell Fire-X is another. (Source: Aviation Week)
27 Jun 11. SELEX Galileo’s Gabbiano radars selected for Elbit Systems’ UAS. SELEX Galileo, a Finmeccanica Company, been selected by Elbit Systems to supply its Gabbiano radar family for installation aboard Elbit Systems’ Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The Gabbiano T20 radar will be installed aboard the Hermes® 450 while the most powerful version of the Gabbiano family, the T200, has been chosen for the Hermes® 900. The Gabbiano radar family was chosen by Elbit Systems thanks to its light weight, ease of installation, advanced surveillance performance and growth potential. The radars will improve the Hermes® systems’ long range surveillance capabilities over sea and ground via Air to Surface operational modes and high resolution imaging features such as SAR and ISAR. The radars are already fully operative and can perform in all light and weather conditions. SELEX Galileo is planning to deliver the first Gabbiano T20 radar to Elbit Systems by the end of this year. The Gabbiano radar family has been selected by 5 international customers for installation aboard the Alenia Aeronautica ATR42, AgustaWestland AW139 Helicopter, Beechcraft B350ER, Elbit Systems Hermes® 450 & Hermes® 900 and for Coastal Surveillance sheltered installations.
21 Jun 11. The US risks losing out in the market for unmanned aerial vehicles unless it pushes ahead with efforts to reform damaging and outdated export controls, according to leading executives at Northrop Grumman, the US defence contractor.
“Countries have an insatiable appetite for drones … and unless something changes in US policy [UAVs] will be another area where in five years we will look back and say, ‘gee we missed the boat, the US missed the boat’,” James Pitts, who heads Northrop’s Electronic Systems unit, told the Financial Times. At present UAVs are regulated in the same category as cruise missiles, falling under the Missile Technology Control Regime, an informal grouping of 34 countries designed to prevent the proliferation of systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. As a result, US regulators routinely deny export permits for drones. Although companies can appeal those decisions, the process costs time and money and, in effect, cuts manufacturers such as Northrop out of lucrative foreign markets. “If we say [to customers] well you can’t have a Global Hawk … they go to Israel and they buy a Hermes 450. It is not quite a Global Hawk but it is pretty capable. And so that is one of the frustrations,” said Gary Ervin, who runs Northrop’s aerospace division.
Israel is not a partner in the MTCR, and its leading defence companies have had considerable success exporting drones. Elbit has sold Hermes UAVs to the UK, while Israel Aerospace Industries has sold its Heron drones to Brazil and Germany. While Northrop had learnt to cope with many export control restrictions, in its efforts to win foreign sales, the company’s engineering teams had been forced to adopt some “crazy” solutions, Mr Ervin said. A new, beefed up version of the Fire Scout falls foul of rules on size so the company has had to fill in some of its fuel tank