11 Jun 14. Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Navy successfully flew the unmanned MQ-8B Fire Scout simultaneously with the MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter for the first time. The capability demonstrates how a mix of aircraft can increase a ship commander’s intelligence-gathering capabilities aboard the Littoral Combat Ship. The flight tests took place May 12, aboard the USS Freedom (LCS 1) off the coast of San Diego. Fire Scout complements the Sea Hawk because it can fly longer to maintain constant surveillance on a target or area of interest. “Utilizing the Fire Scout in operational maritime scenarios with manned aircraft will prove to be a unique asset to our fleet,” said Capt. Patrick Smith, Fire Scout program manager. “The sensors of the Fire Scout are providing complimentary situational awareness and precision targeting support for the MH-60R Sea Hawk and Littoral Combat Ships.” The MQ-8B Fire Scout is designed to takeoff autonomously and land from any aviation-capable warship. It has the endurance to fly for five hours and has logged more than 12,500 flight hours from land and sea. The MQ-8B Fire Scout is on its eighth at-sea deployment supporting a variety of surveillance and security missions onboard Navy frigates. The system also completed a two-year mission providing ground commanders intelligence-gathering capabilities in Afghanistan.
12 Jun 14. Airbus to target UAV record with improved Zephyr. Airbus will later this year conduct a flight test campaign with an improved version of the Zephyr high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air system design recently acquired from Qinetiq, and believes a niche market exists for the product. Referring to the solar-powered Zephyr as a “high-altitude pseudo-satellite”, Jens Nielsen, head of unmanned aerial systems for Airbus Defence & Space’s Military Aircraft unit, says a production version could perform tasks as a communications relay and persistent surveillance asset in the future. The Zephyr 7 airframe acquired from Qinetiq (file image shown above) has a payload capacity of 5-10kg (11-22lb), but Nielsen notes: “We have a roadmap to increase this payload – this is why we are building a Zephyr 8, and then we will build a generation-one [UAV] thereafter.” Recent supporting work has included testing the aircraft’s communications fit and electro-optical sensor, he adds, with Airbus having drawn on its satellite production experience to minimise the volume and weight required to house key equipment. The UAV currently has a 23m wingspan, and a take-off weight of only 100kg.
Speaking in Seville, Spain, Nielsen adds that Airbus is intending to better the 14-day flight endurance record so far achieved with the Zephyr aircraft. The company acquired the design in 2013 after several years of work and testing performed by the UK technology company. (Source: UAS VISION/Flight Global)
09 Jun 14. Banshee Target Fails in India. Defence experts have raised doubt over the efficiency of UK-made unmanned aircraft Banshee which was to be used as a target against surface-to-air medium range missile Akash, but failed to perform twice in the last couple of days. While on Tuesday the aerial target fell down in the sea nearly three minutes after taking off from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur off the Odisha coast, on Wednesday the pilot-less target aircraft (PTA) failed to take off due to technical glitches in its lifting support system. The mission team of Akash had to postpone the missile test till June 20. Defence sources said there was technical snag in the motor of the aircraft. Though on earlier occasions, the Lakshya target has performed below the expectations, the experts claimed that indigenously built Lakshya PTA is performing better than British-made multi-functional target aircraft Banshee even as the latter’s flight duration is more. Lakshya is a remotely piloted high speed target drone system developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) of DRDO. It