Excalibur, designed by Aurora Flight Sciences is expected to fill a gap between current weaponized UAVs and manned tactical air support platforms. When fielded, sometime in the next decade, Excalibu could fill the gap between current weaponized UAVs such as Predator and FireScout and manned strike platforms such as Apache and A-10.
The 21 foot wingspan aerial vehicle will weigh about 2,600 lbs. The empty weight will be 700 lbs., Excalibur will be able to carry a payload of up to 400 lbs. To enable the attack role, Excalibur will be compatible with Hellfire, APKWS II, Viper Strike and SPIKE. Excalibur will combine VTOL launch and recovery, high-speed flight (460 knots), and low speed loiter (100 knots) into one aircraft. The vehicle will be able to operate in a STOL or STOVL mode for increased mission durations or payloads. The Excalibur’s weapons carriage concept is unique. When the aircraft is on the ground, weapons and payloads are placed over the wings to protect them from damage from dust or debries. After takeoff, Excalibur rolls upside-down to normal flight pattern, with payload and weapons in normal position under the wings.
It is powered by a turbine engine, placed in oblique position, generating thrust and lift for forward flight and rotating into vetical, for take-off and landing. The turbine generates sufficient thrust to accelerate the vehicle to dash speed, in excess of 300 knots, enabling the Excalibur to reach flash points in half the time of an attack helicopter. The UAV can also loiter over the target area for much longer, even after flying long distances. Excalibur uses a unique three-fan design to lift augmentation for vertical takeoff and landing. The battery powered lift fans are embedded in the wings and fuselage. The wing stored fans slide out to augment turbine thrust during takeoff and landing. Excalibur will be cleared for operation at altitudes up to 40,000 feet, and 3 hours flight endurance.
The flight control system will be designed to enable high level of autonomy, since the aircraft is not be remotely piloted, like current Predators, operators are able are expected to focus on mission planning, finding, and engaging targets instead of flying the aircraft.
Excalibur is under development as a technology demonstrator aircraft, funded by the US Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate. Excalibur is scheduled for flight in 2007 pending availability of funds.
Highly autonomous flight control system will reduce human involvement in controlling the platform, enabling the operator to focus on mission planning, finding, and engaging targets. The Excalibur, designed by Aurora, is scheduled for flight in 2007. General Dynamics Robotics Systems (GDRS) is responsible for the ground control station and data links.
Excalibur is developed by Aurora Flight Sciences in conjunction with the Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate and the Office of Naval Research. Aurora conducted extensive wind tunnel testing of scaled-down vehicles and plans to test a proof of principle aircraft in 2007, after which, the company plans to continue the development into full scale system.
The British company Smith Group agreed to sell its Aerospace division Smith Aerospace to General Electric Company for US$4.8 billion. The Sale is targeted for completion during the second quarter of 2007. Under a separate move, Smith Detection and GE will establish a joint venture aiming at the homeland security market.
According to .Smiths’ chief executive Mr Butler-Wheelhouse , increased capital requirements and the growing importance of supplier scale, especially as the next generation of large programs kicks in were the drivers for the decision to sell the avionics group.
In 2001 the European Union blocked a similar move by GE – the acquisition of Honeywell. The current acquisition is expected to meet less obstacles as the two companies are complementing each other in their activities. GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said he is looking forward to a constructive process with EU antitrust regulators. “GE and Smiths fit together well because our product offerings are complementary and because we have similar customers and deep domain expertise in this industry.” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. Smiths Aerospace demonstrated continued strong growth in the growing aerospace and defense market. GE plans to add Smith’s flight management systems, electrical power management, mechanical actuation systems and airborne platform computing systems to its offerings to the commercial and military aviation markets. “This acquisition is consistent with our strategy to invest in high-technology infrastructure businesses that deliver strong growth, earnings expansion and higher margins” Immelt said. “GE Aviation is growing about 10% a year and this acquisition gives us a technology growth platform that will be accretive to our net income and will deliver immediate and future value for our investors.”
In a parallel move, GE and the Smith Group signed today a letter of intent with creating a joint venture including GE Security’s Homeland Protection business and Smiths Detection. Upon completion of the transaction, GE will own 36% and Smiths 64% of the joint venture and both companies will have board representation, with Smiths having a majority. The joint venture, to be called Smiths GE Detection, will be headquartered in London. Keith Butler-Wheelhouse will serve as the chairman of the board. Stephen Phipson, currently group managing director of Smiths Detection, will serve as the president.
Northrop Grumman will enhance the capabilities of its Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS), installed on the fleet of E-8C Joint STARS aircraft. The enhancements will introduce improved mobile target precision tracking and engagement capability with the radar’s Land/Maritime Mode (ELMM). The technology to be used for the upgrade is an outgrowth of the successful DARPA Affordable Moving Surface Target Engagement (AMSTE) program, demonstrated in recent exercises and includes an Advanced Radar Mode (ARM) upgrade to the Joint STARS sensor. During these demonstrations, target coordinates were exported from Joint STARS radars directly to GPS guided JDAM munitions.
The E-8C Joint STARS is the world’s most advanced wide-area airborne ground-surveillance, targeting and battle-management system. It detects, locates, classifies, tracks and targets hostile ground movements, communicating real-time information through secure data links with joint and component command and control elements. The ARM upgrade will provide a Swath Synthetic Aperture Radar (Swath SAR) mode and provide an Enhanced SAR mode in a new processing architecture that provides additional growth for future enhancements. It also provides additional capability to disseminate high resolution imagery from the Joint STARS radar to ground commanders.
All Joint STARS aircraft are assigned to the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Wing, a “total-force blended wing,” based at Robins Air Force Base, Warner Robins, Ga. The wing comprises active-duty Air Force, Army and Air National Guard personnel.
Northrop Grumman is providing the wing with operations as part of multi-year Total System Support Responsibility (TSSR) sustainment and Joint STARS Extended Test Support (JETS) programs.