AAI Shadow Unmanned Aircraft Systems Reach 400,000 Total Flight Hours
AAI Corporation announced today that its Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TUAS) have exceeded 400,000 flight hours. In service with the US Army, Army National Guard and Marine Corps, more than 90 percent of Shadow systems’ operational hours have been in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
“Shadow TUAS continue to evolve along with the needs of our warfighters,” explains Vice President of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Steven Reid of AAI. “During more than 400,000 hours of operation, we have partnered with end users to help optimize their tactics and procedures by adding new and important system capabilities.”
Shadow initiatives that got underway in 2008 are making major strides in 2009. A laser designation capability, which was tested successfully in late 2008, has been fielded on a limited number of Shadow aircraft. After these prototypes are proven, production units are expected to be fielded starting later this year.
In addition, a new wing design is planned for the Shadow aircraft that increases its wingspan to 20 feet, improving payload capacity and endurance while adding hard points under each wing for external stores. Retrofit kits to equip Shadow aircraft with the new wing are expected to be fielded starting in late 2009.
AAI also is incorporating the Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) onto Shadow aircraft to provide greater communications bandwidth and data security. The line-of-site, Ku-band digital data link provides Shadow system users a common interface with other military systems that incorporate TCDL — including the Extended-Range, Multipurpose Sky Warrior unmanned aircraft system (UAS), the Hunter UAS, and the Apache helicopter.
Initial production systems featuring the TCDL are planned to be fielded in early 2011, followed by retrofit activities for existing systems.
“This milestone, and the sheer magnitude of maturity we’ve experienced with our Shadow TUAS, reflects AAI’s commitment to the end user,” says Reid. “Our field service representatives are deployed shoulder-to-shoulder with warfighters, maintaining, and in some cases operating, these aircraft.
The wealth of battlefield feedback we receive is not taken for granted — we use this experience to make Shadow TUAS better systems for our customers.”
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