The UK Royal Navy (RN) has outlined plans to trial a vertical unmanned aerial system (VUAS) on board a Type 23 frigate in 2018 as part of the UK Rotary-Wing Unmanned Air System Capability Concept Demonstrator (RWUAS CCD) Phase 2 effort.
Speaking at the DSEI in London on 12 September, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones said he was keen to demonstrate the capability on board an in-service frigate next year as a precursor to operating a VUAS from Type 31e frigates when they enter service from 2023.
“From what we’ve seen over the past two years, we know it should be perfectly possible for the Type 31e frigate to operate a vertical lift unmanned air system alongside, or perhaps even in place of, a manned helicopter, from the moment the first ship enters service from 2023,” he said.
The UK Ministry of Defence has partnered with Leonardo Helicopters for the jointly funded two-year second phase of the RWUAS CCD programme. Work being undertaken includes clarifying the operational requirements for a RWUAS in land and maritime environments, John Ponsonby, the managing director of Leonardo’s helicopter operations in the United Kingdom, told the Future of Military Rotorcraft conference at DSEI on 11 September.
“We’ll take those requirements to define an optimum RWUAS solution that will provide game-changing capabilities in terms of range, endurance, cost of ownership, and manpower. A wide range of rotary wing and VTOL concepts are being studied,” he said.
The unmanned rotary-wing platform, which is developing from these activities, will be a clean-sheet design in the range of 1-3 tons, capable of complementing a fleet of manned helicopters, offering significant acquisition and support cost savings.
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