Tag Archives: Northrop Grumman

First Flight from LCS

Northrop Grumman Corporation’s autonomous helicopter, MQ-8C Fire Scout, took to the air for the first time from a U.S. Navy independence-class Littoral Combat ship, USS Montgomery (LCS-8). The flight took place off the coast of California during the second phase of Dynamic Interface testing, once again demonstrating Fire Scout’s stability and safety while operating around the ship.

MQ-8C Fire Scout Completes Successful First Flight from Littoral Combat Ship
MQ-8C Fire Scout Completes Successful First Flight from Littoral Combat Ship

The two week at-sea event allowed the U.S. Navy to test the MQ-8C Fire Scout’s airworthiness and ability to land and take off from a littoral combat ship throughout a broad operational envelope. The MQ-8C Fire Scout conducted its initial at-sea flight test aboard the guided missile destroyer, USS Jason Dunham (DDG-108) in December 2015.

«Fire Scout’s successful testing aboard USS Montgomery (LCS-8) and USS Dunham (DDG-108) proves its capability to fly from multiple air capable ships», said Captain Jeff Dodge, program manager, Fire Scout, Naval Air Systems Command. «We plan to have the MQ-8C Fire Scout deployed aboard multiple ships in the near future giving the fleet the persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting asset they need».

With the completion of Dynamic Interface testing, the MQ-8C Fire Scout is one step closer to Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) and full operational deployment.

«Fire Scout’s autonomous technology coupled with the range and endurance of the MQ-8C airframe is truly a game-changer», said Leslie Smith, vice president, tactical autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. «When the MQ-8C deploys with its advanced AESA maritime radar, the U.S. Navy will have unmatched situational awareness and the ability to provide sea control in any contested maritime environment».

The MQ-8C Fire Scout builds on the ongoing accomplishments of the MQ-8B Fire Scout program. Helicopter Squadron 23 is currently operating onboard the deployed littoral combat ship, USS Coronado (LCS-4), with two MQ-8B Fire Scouts in the South China Sea.

 

Specifications

Length 41.4 feet/12.6 m
Width 7.8 feet/2.4 m
Blades Folded Hangar 7.8×34.7×10.9 feet/2.4×10.6×3.3 m
Height 10.9 feet/3.3 m
Rotor Diameter 35 feet/10.7 m
Gross Takeoff Weight 6,000 lbs/2,721.5 kg
Engine Rolls-Royce M250-C47B with FADEC (Full Authority Digital Electronic Control)

 

Performance

Speed 140 knots/161 mph/259 km/h (maximum)
Operational Ceiling 17,000 feet/5,182 m
Maximum Endurance 14 hrs
Maximum Payload (Internal) 1,000 lbs/453.6 kg
Typical Payload 600 lbs/272 kg (11 hrs endurance)
Maximum Sling Load 2,650 lbs/1,202 kg

 

Engine Specifications

Power 651 shp/485.45 kW
Pressure ratio 9.2
Length 42.95 inch/1.09 m
Diameter 24.81 inch/0.63 m
Basic weight 274 lbs/124.3 kg
Compressor 1CF (centrifugal high-pressure)
Turbine 2HP (two-stage high-pressure turbine), 2PT (two-stage power turbine)

 

LITENING pod for RDAF

Northrop Grumman Corporation has been awarded a contract by the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) to provide LITENING advanced targeting pods for its F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. LITENING gives pilots powerful capabilities for detecting, identifying and tracking targets at extremely long ranges.

Northrop Grumman to Provide LITENING Advanced Targeting Pods to Royal Danish Air Force
Northrop Grumman to Provide LITENING Advanced Targeting Pods to Royal Danish Air Force

Denmark was the first international partner to take delivery of the fourth generation of the LITENING pod. With this award, the RDAF will expand the use of LITENING to additional aircraft in its fleet.

«As a key member of NATO, Denmark supports a wide range of missions. LITENING gives the RDAF powerful capabilities to carry out these missions, whether they call for targeting or Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)», said Doctor Robert Fleming, vice president, programmes, Northrop Grumman.

The Northrop Grumman LITENING Advanced Targeting System, now in its fourth generation, gives aircrews superior situational awareness and targeting capabilities for strike and ISR missions. Technologies include digital, high definition video, 1K forward-looking infrared and charge-coupled device sensors, laser imaging sensors and advanced data links. These advances deliver more accurate target identification and location at longer ranges than previous targeting pod systems, while also reducing pilot workload.

LITENING pod has been integrated on the A-10 Thunderbolt II, AV-8B Harrier II, B-52 Stratofortress, C-130 Hercules, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet and has achieved more than two million operating hours.

Multi-Spectral Sensor

Northrop Grumman Corporation has begun flight testing of the MS-177 sensor payload with a successful inaugural flight on an RQ-4 Global Hawk high altitude long endurance autonomous aircraft system. The flight tests mark the first time the sensor has been flown on a high altitude long-range autonomous aircraft and extend the mission capabilities of the system. The MS-177 sensor is designed to provide capabilities to not only «find» targets using broad area search and different sensing technologies, but to also fix, track, and assess targets through its agility and multiple sensing modalities.

Northrop Grumman has begun flight testing of the MS-177 sensor payload with a successful inaugural flight on an RQ-4 Global Hawk high altitude long endurance autonomous aircraft system
Northrop Grumman has begun flight testing of the MS-177 sensor payload with a successful inaugural flight on an RQ-4 Global Hawk high altitude long endurance autonomous aircraft system

The MS-177 testing is expected to continue through the first half of 2017. The successful flight test at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, California facility follows the demonstrations of two sensors previously unavailable on the Global Hawk. Northrop Grumman successfully flew a Senior Year Electro-optical Reconnaissance System-2 (SYERS-2) intelligence gathering sensor in February 2016 and has recently completed flight tests of the Optical Bar Camera.

«The MS-177 is the new benchmark in imaging Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) sensors and its integration into the Global Hawk platform expands the mission capability we can provide», said Mick Jaggers, vice president and program manager, Global Hawk program, Northrop Grumman. «This successful flight is another milestone in an aggressive effort to demonstrate Global Hawk’s versatility and effectiveness in carrying a variety of sensor payloads and support establishing Open Mission Systems (OMS) compliancy».

The Global Hawk system is the premier provider of persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information. Able to fly at high altitudes for greater than 30 hours, Global Hawk is designed to gather near-real-time, high-resolution imagery of large areas of land in all types of weather – day or night. In active operation with the U.S. Air Force since 2001, Global Hawk has amassed more than 200,000 flight hours with missions flown in support of military and humanitarian operations.

 

Specifications

Wingspan 130.9 feet/39.9 m
Length 47.6 feet/14.5 m
Height 15.4 feet/4.7 m
Gross Take-Off Weight (GTOW) 32,250 lbs/14,628 kg
Power Plant Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan engine
Thrust 8,290 lbs/36.8 kN/3,752.5 kgf
Maximum Altitude 60,000 feet/18.3 km
Payload 3,000 lbs/1,360 kg
Loiter Velocity 310 knots TAS/357 mph/574 km/h
Ferry Range 12,300 NM/14,155 miles/22,780 km
On-Station Endurance Exceeds 24 hours
Maximum Endurance 30 hours

 

Initial Integration
Testing

Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Marine Corps successfully completed an Initial Integration Event (IIE) in November 2016 for the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) system.

«The volley fire capability that G/ATOR demonstrated is critical on the modern battlefield, and all of the data collected during IIE indicates that GWLR can exceed the U.S. Marine Corps’ range capability»,” said Roshan Roeder, vice president, mission solutions, Northrop Grumman
«The volley fire capability that G/ATOR demonstrated is critical on the modern battlefield, and all of the data collected during IIE indicates that GWLR can exceed the U.S. Marine Corps’ range capability»,” said Roshan Roeder, vice president, mission solutions, Northrop Grumman

The three-week IIE demonstrated G/ATOR’s Ground Weapon Locating Radar (GWLR) mode’s ability to detect and track multiple types of Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (RAM) rounds simultaneously. Over 40 different weapon scenarios were evaluated through the live fire event, and more than 700 live shots were fired, including a variety of RAM rounds. GWLR successfully tracked projectiles including volley fire between 3.7 miles/6 km and 31 miles/50 km, demonstrating G/ATOR’s long range capability. Volley fire capability is the ability to detect and track multiple RAM projectiles intentionally fired in very rapid sequence in an attempt to overwhelm radar capabilities.

«GWLR mode detects and tracks time-critical incoming threats, calculates an approximate impact point, and then tracks the threat’s trajectory back in time to estimate a firing position, allowing counterfire forces to engage rapidly», said Roshan Roeder, vice president, mission solutions, Northrop Grumman. «The volley fire capability that G/ATOR demonstrated is critical on the modern battlefield, and all of the data collected during IIE indicates that GWLR can exceed the U.S. Marine Corps’ range capability».

The AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR system is multi-mission, performing four principal missions using the same hardware: short-range air defense, tactical air operations control, counterfire target acquisition (GWLR mode) and future air traffic control. GWLR mode adds software to the G/ATOR system to detect, track and identify RAM projectiles, both 360-degree and sector-only. The GWLR mode addresses multiple types of simultaneous threats. Adding this capability will allow G/ATOR to replace five legacy United States Marine Corps (USMC) radars.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR), strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide.

First Flight

Northrop Grumman Corporation, in partnership with the U.S. Army Prototype Integration Facility and prime contractor Redstone Defense Systems, has successfully completed the first flight of the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.

The UH-60V Black Hawk flew for the first time on January 19 in Huntsville, Alabama
The UH-60V Black Hawk flew for the first time on January 19 in Huntsville, Alabama

Northrop Grumman provided the Integrated Avionics Suite for the UH-60V, which upgrades the U.S. Army’s UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters with a digital cockpit, under a contract awarded in 2014. The scalable, fully integrated and open architecture-based cockpit design replaces older analog gauges with digital electronic instrument displays in the upgraded aircraft. The UH-60V features one of the Army’s most advanced avionics solutions, enabling the complex missions of the army aviation warfighter.

On January 19, the UH-60V Black Hawk successfully flew for the first time with this digitized cockpit in Huntsville. This important milestone was the culmination of a cockpit design and development effort that was completed on schedule within 29 months of the original contract award. The team’s accomplishment achieves the specific timeline set by Army leadership over two years prior to the first flight.

«This UH-60V first flight accomplishment reaffirms our open, safe and secure cockpit solutions that will enable the most advanced capabilities for warfighters», said Ike Song, vice president, mission solutions, Northrop Grumman. «We remain committed to delivering an affordable, low-risk solution that provides long-term value and flexibility to customers».

The UH-60V digital cockpit solution is aligned with the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) standard and supports integration of off-the-shelf hardware and software, enabling rapid insertion of capabilities in multiple avionics platforms while reducing cost and risk for system integration and upgrades. The open architecture approach provides greater flexibility and enables upgrades to be done with or without the original equipment manufacturer’s involvement.

The UH-60V meets the standards for safety-critical software development and is designed to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency’s Global Air Traffic Management requirements, enabling the system to traverse military and civilian airspace worldwide. It is also certifiable and compliant with safety-critical avionics standards such as DO-178C.

The UH-60V Black Hawk program will modernize the Army’s fleet of UH‑60L helicopters through cost-effective cockpit upgrades. The new system is nearly identical to the UH‑60M pilot-vehicle interface, providing common training and operational employment.

The pilot and crew prepare for an initial test flight of the UH-60V Black Hawk, which successfully flew for the first time on January 19 in Huntsville, Alabama. Northrop Grumman delivered the Integrated Avionics Suite for the UH-60V, which is designed to update existing UH-60L analog gauges with digital electronic instrument displays
The pilot and crew prepare for an initial test flight of the UH-60V Black Hawk, which successfully flew for the first time on January 19 in Huntsville, Alabama. Northrop Grumman delivered the Integrated Avionics Suite for the UH-60V, which is designed to update existing UH-60L analog gauges with digital electronic instrument displays

Laser Mine Detection

The U.S. Navy’s AN/AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS), designed and manufactured by Northrop Grumman Corporation, has achieved Initial Operational Capability. ALMDS provides rapid wide-area reconnaissance and assessment of mine threats in sea lanes, littoral zones, confined straits, choke points and amphibious areas of operations.

ALMDS provides rapid wide-area reconnaissance and assessment of mine threats in sea lanes, littoral zones, confined straits, choke points and amphibious areas of operations
ALMDS provides rapid wide-area reconnaissance and assessment of mine threats in sea lanes, littoral zones, confined straits, choke points and amphibious areas of operations

«With Initial Operational Capability (IOC), the ALMDS program has delivered a new and important capability to the U.S. Navy and to our nation – the first of its kind for mine warfare», said Erik Maskelony, assistant program manager, Airborne Laser Mine Detection System, Program Executive Office Littoral Combat Ships (PEO LCS), Mine Warfare Program Office (PMS 495).

The ALMDS system features several capabilities that make it the first of its kind. It leverages a sensor pod to rapidly sweep the water using laser technology. The sensor pod can also be rapidly installed on a medium-lift helicopter and quickly removed after mission completion. This agile system’s detection speed and accuracy will significantly improve the U.S. Navy’s mine detection capabilities and help ensure the safety of service members around the world.

«Using forward motion of the aircraft, ALMDS’ pulsed laser light generates 3-D images of the near-surface volume to detect, classify and localize near-surface moored sea mines», said Mark Skinner, vice president, directed energy, Northrop Grumman. «Highly accurate in day or night operations, the untethered ALMDS sensor conducts rapid wide-area searches with high accuracy».

The target data generated by ALMDS is displayed on a console and stored for post-mission analysis. The Navy’s ALMDS installation aboard the MH-60S Seahawk helicopter is mounted on a Bomb Rack Unit 14, which is installed on the Carriage, Stream, Tow, and Recovery System. Northrop Grumman’s self-contained design allows the system to be installed on other aircraft types.

Earlier this year, Northrop Grumman successfully integrated and demonstrated ALMDS on a UH-60M Blackhawk helicopter. The first international sale of ALMDS occurred in 2012 to the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF), and the JMSDF has completed flight qualification testing of ALMDS on an MCH-101 helicopter.

New Aerial Refueling

Northrop Grumman has successfully completed the first flight of an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye equipped with Aerial Refueling (AR). Under a 2013 Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development (EMD) contract award, Northrop Grumman designed, developed, manufactured, and tested several sub-system upgrades necessary to accommodate an aerial refueling capability.

The first U.S. Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye equipped with aerial refueling (Photo credit: John Germana, Northrop Grumman)
The first U.S. Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye equipped with aerial refueling (Photo credit: John Germana, Northrop Grumman)

«The Northrop Grumman aerial refueling team continues to put outstanding effort into bringing this much-needed capability to the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and our warfighters who rely on it», said Captain Keith Hash, program manager, E-2/C-2 Airborne Tactical Data System Program Office (PMA-231).

The aerial refueling capability will allow the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye to provide longer on-station times at greater ranges, extending its mission time to better support the warfighter.

The upgrades installed to support aerial refueling include probe and associated piping, electrical and lighting upgrades, and long endurance seats that will enhance field of view in the cockpit and reduce fatigue over longer missions.

«First flight is an exciting day in the journey from concept to an aerial refueling equipped E-2D», said Jane Bishop, vice president, E-2/C-2 programs, Northrop Grumman. «This takes the E-2D to another level, which will bring more combat persistence to the U.S. and our allies».

The aerial refueling program will modify three aircraft for testing planned through 2018. Production cut-in and retrofit plans are scheduled to begin in 2018.

The first U.S. Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye equipped with aerial refueling (Photo credit: John Germana, Northrop Grumman)
The first U.S. Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye equipped with aerial refueling (Photo credit: John Germana, Northrop Grumman)

 

E-2D Advanced Hawkeye

The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is a game changer in how the Navy will conduct battle management command and control. By serving as the «digital quarterback» to sweep ahead of strike, manage the mission, and keep our net-centric carrier battle groups out of harms way, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is the key to advancing the mission, no matter what it may be. The E-2D gives the warfighter expanded battlespace awareness, especially in the area of information operations delivering battle management, theater air and missile defense, and multiple sensor fusion capabilities in an airborne system.

 

Hardware with system characteristics that provides:

  • Substantial target processing capacity (>3,000 reports per second)
  • Three highly automated and common operator stations
  • High-capacity, flat-panel color high-resolution displays
  • Extensive video type selection (radar and identification friend/foe)
  • HF/VHF/UHF and satellite communications systems
  • Extensive data link capabilities
  • Inertial navigational system and global positioning system navigation and in-flight alignment
  • Integrated and centralized diagnostic system
  • Glass Cockpit allows software reconfigurable flight/mission displays
  • Cockpit – 4th tactical operator
  • Open architecture ensures rapid technology upgrades and customized configuration options
The Hawkeye provides all-weather airborne early warning, airborne battle management and command and control functions for the Carrier Strike Group and Joint Force Commander
The Hawkeye provides all-weather airborne early warning, airborne battle management and command and control functions for the Carrier Strike Group and Joint Force Commander

 

General Characteristics

Wingspan 80 feet 7 inch/24.56 m
Width, wings folded 29 feet 4 inch/8.94 m
Length overall 57 feet 8.75 inch/17.60 m
Height overall 18 feet 3.75 inch/5.58 m
Diameter of rotodome 24 feet/7.32 m
Weight empty 43,068 lbs/19,536 kg
Internal fuel 12,400 lbs/5,624 kg
Takeoff gross weight 57,500 lbs/26,083 kg
Maximum level speed 350 knots/403 mph/648 km/h
Maximum cruise speed 325 knots/374 mph/602 km/h
Cruise speed 256 knots/295 mph/474 km/h
Approach speed 108 knots/124 mph/200 km/h
Service ceiling 34,700 feet/10,576 m
Minimum takeoff distance 1,346 feet/410 m ground roll
Minimum landing distance 1,764 feet/537 m ground roll
Ferry range 1,462 NM/1,683 miles/2,708 km
Crew Members 5
Power Plant 2 × Rolls-Royce T56-A-427A, rated at 5,100 eshp each
Unrefueled >6 hours
In-flight refueling 12 hours

 

Electronic
countermeasure

Northrop Grumman Corporation has been awarded a contract by the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) to upgrade the AN/ALQ-131 electronic countermeasure (ECM) pods for its F-16 aircraft fleet. The upgrade includes new threat detection and jamming capabilities to allow aircraft to operate safely in the modern threat environment.

Currently operational in the United States and 11 other countries, the Northrop Grumman AN/ALQ-131 pod is one of the most successful ECM systems ever built
Currently operational in the United States and 11 other countries, the Northrop Grumman AN/ALQ-131 pod is one of the most successful ECM systems ever built

Air defense capabilities in hostile and unstable regions have grown rapidly in sophistication in recent years, presenting an increased threat to military aviation. Northrop Grumman’s Digital Receiver/Exciter adds fifth-generation aircraft electronic warfare technology to the AN/ALQ-131, providing the flexibility to remain ahead of emerging threats.

«The digital technology in the AN/ALQ-131 upgrade provides a significant leap in capability for electronic countermeasures, giving RNLAF aviators a superior level of protection wherever their missions take them», said Doctor Robert Fleming, vice president, programs, Northrop Grumman.

Currently operational in the United States and 11 other countries, the AN/ALQ-131 pod is one of the most successful ECM systems ever built. The company has more than 60 years of experience in electronic warfare protecting a variety of aircraft and aircrews, including A-10 Thunderbolt II, B-1 Lancer, B-52 Stratofortress, C-130 Hercules, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet and F-35 Lightning II.

Block IV Aperture Array

Northrop Grumman Corporation has delivered the first shipset of Light Weight Wide Aperture Array (LWWAA) hardware for Block IV of the Virginia Class Submarine (VCS) to the U.S. Navy. This represents the 19th shipset that Northrop Grumman has supplied for the VCS program.

LWWAA is the only available fiber-optic passive hull mounted sensor array in the market and is critical to the operation of the U.S. Navy’s VCS fleet
LWWAA is the only available fiber-optic passive hull mounted sensor array in the market and is critical to the operation of the U.S. Navy’s VCS fleet

LWWAA is the only available fiber-optic passive hull mounted sensor array in the market and is critical to the operation of the U.S. Navy’s VCS fleet. The technology is central to the development of future generations of undersea sensors. There are six arrays in each shipset.

«LWWAA gives the Navy a distinctive edge over sensors being used by any other naval force», said Alan Lytle, vice president, undersea systems, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. «The early delivery of this first Block IV LWWAA shipset continues a tradition of 114 consecutive early array deliveries by Northrop Grumman Undersea Systems in support of the Virginia Class Submarine program».

Northrop Grumman has been delivering LWWAA panels for all VCSs, starting with the USS Virginia, SSN-774. The start of the first Block IV shipments represents the beginning of a series of 10 shipments that will be delivered at a rate of two per year to Huntington Ingalls Industries. Northrop Grumman will provide the acoustic array assemblies as well as all the hardware required to install the arrays on the exterior of the ships.

Northrop Grumman Corporation has delivered the first shipset of LWWAA hardware for Block IV of the Virginia Class Submarine to the U.S. Navy
Northrop Grumman Corporation has delivered the first shipset of LWWAA hardware for Block IV of the Virginia Class Submarine to the U.S. Navy

 

Block IV

Ship Yard Christening Commissioned Homeport
SSN-792 Vermont EB Under Construction
SSN-793 Oregon EB Under Construction
SSN-794 Montana NNS Under Construction
SSN-795 Hyman G. Rickover EB On Order
SSN-796 New Jersey NNS On Order
SSN-797 Iowa EB On Order
SSN-798 Massachusetts NNS On Order
SSN-799 Idaho EB On Order
SSN-800 Arkansas NNS On Order
SSN-801 Utah EB On Order

 

2nd Test Vehicle

Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), seeks to greatly increase the effectiveness of forward-deployed small-deck ships such as destroyers and frigates by enabling them to serve as mobile launch and recovery sites for specially designed unmanned air systems (UASs). DARPA last year awarded Phase 3 of Tern to a team led by the Northrop Grumman Corporation to build a full-scale technology demonstration system. The program has since made significant advances on numerous fronts, including commencement of wing fabrication and completion of successful engine testing for its test vehicle, and DARPA has tasked Northrop Grumman with building a second test vehicle.

Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), has made significant advances during Phase 3 on numerous fronts, including commencement of wing fabrication and completion of successful engine testing for its test vehicle, and funding of a second test vehicle
Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), has made significant advances during Phase 3 on numerous fronts, including commencement of wing fabrication and completion of successful engine testing for its test vehicle, and funding of a second test vehicle

«DARPA has been thinking about building a second Tern test vehicle for well over a year», said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager. «Adding the second technology demonstrator enhances the robustness of the flight demonstration program and enables military partners to work with us on maturation, including testing different payloads and experimenting with different approaches to operational usage».

Tern envisions a new medium-altitude, long-endurance UAS that could operate from helicopter decks on smaller ships in rough seas or expeditionary settings while achieving efficient long-duration flight. To provide these and other previously unattainable capabilities, the Tern Phase 3 design is a tailsitting, flying-wing aircraft with a twin contra-rotating, nose-mounted propulsion system. The aircraft would lift off like a helicopter and then perform a transition maneuver to orient it for wing-borne flight for the duration of a mission. Upon mission completion, the aircraft would return to base, transition back to a vertical orientation, and land. The system is sized to fit securely inside a ship hangar for maintenance operations and storage.

Tern has accomplished the following technical milestones for its test vehicle in 2016:

  • Wing fabrication: Since Phase 3 work started at the beginning of 2016, Tern has finished fabricating major airframe components and anticipates final assembly in the first quarter of 2017. Once complete, the airframe will house propulsion, sensors, and other commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) systems to make up the full-scale technology demonstration vehicle.
  • Engine tests: In Phases 2 and 3, Tern has successfully tested numerous modifications to an existing General Electric engine to enable it to operate in both vertical and horizontal orientations. This type of engine was chosen because it is mature and powers multiple helicopter platforms currently in use.
  • Software integration: This summer, Tern opened its Software Integration Test Station (SITS), part of the System Integration Lab that supports software development for the program. The test station includes vehicle management system hardware and software, and uses high-fidelity simulation tools to enable rapid testing of aircraft control software in all phases of flight. The SITS is helping ensure the technology demonstration vehicle could fly safely in challenging conditions such as launch, recovery, and transition between horizontal and vertical flight.

Additional tests are about to start. A 1/5th-scale version of the approved vehicle model is in testing in the 80’ × 120’ wind tunnel at the NASA Ames Research Center’s National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC). Data collected during this test will be used to better characterize aircraft aerodynamic performance and validate aerodynamic models.

«We’re making substantial progress toward our scheduled flight tests, with much of the hardware already fabricated and software development and integration in full swing», said Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, which oversees Tern. «As we keep pressing into uncharted territory – no one has flown a large unmanned tailsitter before – we remain excited about the future capabilities a successful Tern demonstration could enable: organic, persistent, long-range reconnaissance, targeting, and strike support from most Navy ships».

Tern is currently scheduled to start integrated propulsion system testing in the first part of 2017, move to ground-based testing in early 2018, and culminate in a series of at-sea flight tests in late 2018.

DARPA and the Navy have a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to share responsibility for the development and testing of the Tern demonstrator system. The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) has also expressed interest in Tern’s potential capabilities and is providing support to the program.

Tern Phase 3 Concept Video