Frontier Systems was awarded $14 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the upgrade of two YMQ-18A Hummingbird (A-160T) unmanned helicopters. The two Hummingbirds will be completed by year’s end, modified into YMQ-18A Block II configuration.
Technology upgrades likely to be included in the program as outlined by the U.S. Special Operations Command include the integration of Satellite Communications (SATCOM) for Non Line of Site (NLOS) communications, environmental hardening preparing the air vehcile for all-weather operations, to include strengthening of the blade leading edge, and air intake redesign to better cope with sand erosion, dust and minimizing igestion of debries during takeoff and landing from unprepared locations. Justifying the MQ designation indicating recce/attack role, the YMQ-18A can be configured with stubby wings mounting hardpoints for the carrying of up to eight one Hellfire missiles. The aircraft will also be equipped with redundant flight controls. Modifications supporting unmanned resupply missions have already been implemented through another $30 million contract, awarded to Boeing/Frontier Systems by the U.S. Navy in December 2010, for the delivery of two unmanned cargo lifters to support Marine Corps units in Afghanistan.
Currently undergoing extended User evaluation, the YMQ-18A unmanned rotary wing aircraft was designed as a long-endurance vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAS, has flown a world record 18.7 hours with a 300 pound payload. The aircraft’s current maximum gross weight is 5,500 pounds with a design objective of 6,500 pounds and speeds in excess of 140 knots.
The Block II Hummingbird will be enhanced to support military intelligence missions, as part of the Army Intelligence future aerial intelligence gathering team. To support this role Frontier won a $12 million contract modification by DARPA, for the YMQ-18A air vehicle modification and integration of a modified ARGUS-IS pod. In 2010 the U.S. military has tested an unarmed version of the A160 Hummingbird UAV in Belize, for operational evaluation of the Foliage Penetration Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Tracking and Engagement Radar (FORESTER).
Frontier Systems Inc. was founded in 1991. the company was acquired by Boeing in 2004, and is operating since as a subsidiary of Boeing Co. Frontier manufactures unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) including the A-160 Hummingbird, Maverick VTOL, FRP28 Pod Family, Shadow, W570 UAV, and Apollo Avionics.