DARPA awards Northrop Grumman contract for unmanned system demonstration

January 11, 2016  - By
0 Comments
An illustration of Tern, Northrop Grumman's next-generation unmanned system for maritime ISR and strike. (Image: Northrop Grumman)

An illustration of Tern, Northrop Grumman’s next-generation unmanned system for maritime ISR and strike. (Image: Northrop Grumman)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research have awarded Northrop Grumman the third phase of the Tern unmanned systems program. Phase three plans include final design, fabrication and a full-scale, at-sea demonstration of the system.

Tern seeks to develop an autonomous, unmanned, long-range, global, persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and strike system intended to safely and dependably deploy and recover from small-deck naval vessels with minimal ship modifications.

Designed to operate in harsh maritime environments, Tern aims to enable greater mission capability and flexibility for surface combat vessels without the need for establishing fixed land bases or requiring scarce aircraft carrier resources.

According to DARPA, Tern would use smaller ships as mobile launch and recovery sites for medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft (UAVs). Named after the family of seabirds known for flight endurance — many species migrate thousands of miles each year — Tern aims to make it much easier, quicker and less expensive for the Department of Defense to deploy persistent airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike capabilities almost anywhere in the world.

Ideally, Tern would enable on-demand, ship-based unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations without extensive, time-consuming and irreversible ship modifications. It would provide small ships with a “mission truck” that could transport ISR and strike payloads to very long distances from the host vessel. The solution would support field-interchangeable mission packages for both overland and maritime missions. It would operate from multiple ship types and in elevated sea states.

Northrop Grumman’s Tern solution seeks to provide an innovative system that integrates mature and advanced technologies, including a distinctive propulsion solution designed to help expand global persistent ISR/strike capabilities for small-deck naval surface vessels.

“We intend to highly leverage our Unmanned Systems Center of Excellence to develop and demonstrate this type of demanding unmanned systems capability to advance the Navy’s mission,” said Chris Hernandez, vice president, research, technology and advanced design, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “We believe our unique ship-based unmanned systems experience, expertise, and lessons learned from programs including our MQ-8B/C Fire Scout, MQ-4C Triton, X-47A Pegasus and X-47B UCAS, is critical to the success of the Tern.”

“Using an innovative design that integrates vertical take-off and landing transitioning to an efficient flying-wing for cruise, our team is creating a system that we believe would achieve Tern’s revolutionary performance objectives in support of our combatant commanders,” said Ralph Starace, director, advanced design, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “Our full-scale demonstrator system is highly traceable to our operational concept to burn down risk, resulting in a compelling step forward for this game-changing, multi-mission capability,” said Bob August, Tern program manager, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

The Northrop Grumman Tern team includes its wholly owned subsidiary Scaled Composites, as well as General Electric (GE) Aviation, AVX Aircraft Company and Moog.

This article is tagged with , , , , , and posted in Defense, Latest News, UAV/UGV

About the Author:


Post a Comment