DARPA to help Navy put UAVs on small ships

The Defense Department's research arm has established a new program in which it will assist the Navy with finding ways to use smaller ships as mobile launch and recovery sites for medium-altitude long-endurance, fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles.

The program, known as the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN), seeks to make it easier, quicker and less expensive for the Defense Department to deploy intelligence, surveillance and reconaissance and strike capabilities almost anywhere around the globe, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said March 1.

DARPA seeks proposals that would design, develop and demonstrate a medium-altitude long-endurance UAV and an associated automated launch and recovery system. The UAV would have to carry a 600-pound payload and have an operational radius of 600 to 900 nautical miles from its host vessel. The launch and recovery system would have to fit Littoral Combat Ship 2-class ships and other surface combat vessels as feasible.

Among the technical challenges that must be overcome are devising a reliable launch and recovery technique that enables large aircraft operations from smaller ships (even in rough seas); ensuring the entire system can operate with minimal, and preferably reversible, ship modifications and minimal personnel requirements for operations and maintenance; and packaging the system to fit into the limited space aboard ships.
The agency plans to roll out TERN in three phases over approximately 40 months. The project would culminate in a full-scale launch and recovery demonstration.

DARPA will host a Proposers' Day on March 20, in its conference center. Registration must be made by 12 p.m., March 18.


About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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