The US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is set to deploy Textron System’s Aerosonde small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS) for additional sea-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations.
The Aerosonde is slated to be loaded later this year aboard the Expeditionary Mobile Base USNS Hershel ‘Woody'’Williams (ESB 4) for up to a 32-month deployment, David Phillips, Textron Systems senior vice-president and general manager, told Jane’s .
The deployment will build on the experience developed by the SUAS during missions and related operations for the US Navy (USN) 4th Fleet, as well as other maritime-related work in the African Command area.
“It represented for Aerosonde an arrival in the sea-based space for us, winning a long-term multi-year opportunity to provide shipboard ISR to the US Navy,” Phillips said.
“It’s the salt spray,” he added. “It’s about maintenance procedures, and, when we’re done with one mission, the kind of prep needed for the net mission. It’s about the anticorrosive applications we have put on. We have a launch-and-recovery system that has sliding surfaces - we have to make sure the right materials are in place, anticorrosive or Teflon.”
Textron Systems tries to reduce the SUAS’s footprint as much as possible, with “deliberate” design details to keep the flight deck “clean”, Phillips said.
The aircraft has wing span of 11 ft (3 m) with a 9-ft fuselage from tip to tail. That aircraft, Aerosonde radars, and all of the remaining UAS equipment fits into a standard shipping container, which doubles as the operations centre for controlling the aircraft, Phillips said.
He said such packaging allows for roll-on/roll-off capability without special equipment. The SUAS has one combined launch-and-recovery system instead of employing two separate systems for each operation. “The launch-and-recovery system converts from a catapult launch to a net,” Phillips said, adding that “the net folds down” thus reducing the risk to helicopter operations.
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