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16 Mar 07. Lockheed Martin is back at square one with UAV flight-testing after the December crash of its P-175 Polecat demonstrator, which is only now being disclosed. The aircraft went down on Dec. 18, 2006 at the Nevada Test and Training Range, according to U.S. Air Force officials who run the range. An “irreversible unintentional failure in the flight termination ground equipment, which caused the aircraft’s automatic fail-safe flight termination mode to activate” is cited by Lockheed Martin as the cause of the crash. The company developed the aircraft for about $30m using internal research and development funding in an effort to experiment with UAV technology while rivals Northrop Grumman and Boeing continue work on their armed UAV demonstrators for the Pentagon. However, company officials kept it a secret, claiming it was classified even though a customer has not been named. The crash was kept secret until this week, when media began making queries about Polecat’s status. The aircraft was beginning a new phase of flights largely focused on validating the flying wing design at altitudes in excess of 60,000 feet. Polecat, however, never flew above 15,000 feet. Lockheed Martin officials also planned to use the aircraft to experiment with new composites manufacturing techniques, twisting strut designs to produce slightly morphing wings and ground-based vehicle and flight control work. A company statement says officials did learn from work in these areas despite the crash. Lockheed Martin says the flight termination system “performed exactly as expected,” causing the crash. (Source: Aviation Week)

17 Mar 07. BAMS Predators could be armed. Arming is not a requirement of the U.S. Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance(BAMS) program but Mariner UAVs participating in the bid will be equipped to carry weapons, according to a senior General Atomics official. Speaking at AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems Asia-Pacific event in Melbourne, Australia, John Porter, deputy business development manager at San Diego, Calif.-based General Atomics, said Predator B-derived Mariner II can carry up to 3,000 pounds of ordnance and “this capability will not be removed” from aircraft ordered to meet the BAMS requirement. The U.S. Navy has yet to award the BAMS contract; competitors include a teaming of General Atomics and Lockheed Martin offering the Mariner II, and Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk. Australia is interested in the BAMS outcome and is considering the two contenders for its own Air 7000 High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAV requirement. “Australia’s ultimate intent is to replace its P-3C Orions with high altitude UAVs – clearly this is a transformational requirement,” said Peter Smith of Barton Vale Technologies, moderator of the AUVSI presentation. “We have no doubt that the big UAVs are going to replace manned aircraft in many important roles.” A single Predator participated in Australia’s Northern Shelf trials in September 2006, flying around eight hours in support of Australian Defense Force (ADF) operations. Although the General Atomics product does not fly as high as its Northrop Grumman rival, Porter does not believe this to be a restriction. “You can’t see the whites of their eyes from 60,000 feet,” he said. (Source: C4ISR magazine)

16 Mar 07. Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $287m contract to produce five RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems for the U.S. Air Force. The contract includes five aircraft, a mission-control element, a launch-and-recovery element, four enhanced integrated sensor suites (EISS) and sustaining support. Four of the high-altitude, long-endurance UAVs will be in the Block 30 configuration and one will be a Block 40 model. Block 30 aircraft will be equipped with the EISS and capable of carrying an airborne signals intelligence payload. The Block 40 vehicle will configured to carry the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program payload. The first aircraft in the newsest production lot, Lot 5, i

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