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29 Nov 12. Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Navy have conducted the Navy’s first catapult launch of an unmanned system using the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator. The test was conducted at a shore-based catapult facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. It marks the first of several shore-based catapult-to-flight tests that will be performed before the Navy’s UCAS Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program catapult launches the X-47B from a ship. Northrop Grumman is the Navy’s prime contractor for the UCAS-D program.

03 Dec 12. AeroVironment, Inc. has entered into a strategic relationship with Sweden-based CybAero AB to develop and distribute a Tier II vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft system in response to unmet requirements from multiple customers. The relationship gives AeroVironment exclusive rights to provide CybAero AB systems to United States customers and to government customers in NATO and other countries. AeroVironment has agreed to purchase up to $3m in convertible notes from CybAero to facilitate the company’s growth. United States military customers typically segment the numerous types of unmanned aircraft systems they employ by size, weight, endurance and range into different tiers. Man-portable, hand-launched systems such as AeroVironment’s RQ-11B Raven®, RQ-20A Puma® AE and Wasp® AE that weight less than 20 pounds comprise the Tier I segment. Tier II UAS include heavier, larger and longer endurance systems with longer range, such as CybAero’s VTOL offering. Tiers III and IV include air vehicles of increasing size, capable of even longer endurance and range and requiring larger support teams and infrastructure requirements.

03 Dec 12. Dassault conducts Neuron unmanned vehicle’s maiden test flight. Dassault Aviation has conducted the first test flight of Europe’s unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) stealth technology demonstrator, Neuron, at its flight test base in Istres, France. The test flight was carried out in collaboration with the French defense procurement agency (DGA). The initial test flight of the UCAV was scheduled to take place in the middle of this year but was delayed, Flight Global has reported. Powered by a Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour engine, the 10m Neuron demonstrator weighs 5t, and has a wingspan of 12.5m. The French flight testing programme is scheduled to run until 2014, following which the vehicle will head to Vidsel in Sweden for a series of operational trials and to the Perdadesfogu range in Italy, for additional testing to validate its firing and stealth measurements. Launched by the French government in 2003, the Neuron demonstrator programme aims to help the European combat aircraft industry in investigation and validation of technologies required for developing designs of the next-generation UCAV aircraft. The programme was subsequently joined by Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece and Switzerland, along with their related industrial teams, including Alenia Aermacchi, Saab, Eads-Casa, Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) and Ruag. Dassault serves as the programme’s prime contractor and the design authority, while Alenia is responsible for designing a concept of internal weapon bay, called smart integrated weapon bay (SIWB) and other electronics systems. Saab and HAI are entrusted with general design of the main and rear fuselage; Eads-Casa develops wings and ground station, whereas Ruag is responsible for management of low speed wind tunnel tests. (Source: airforce-technology.com)

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