Paris Air Show: Keeper of the night (video)
Unveiling the Nightwarden tactical UAS on the opening day of Paris Air Show 2017, Textron Systems revealed that a range of payload testing for the platform has also been taking place.
The Nightwarden is the company’s latest addition to its range of unmanned aircraft and is the production ready model of the developmental Shadow M2.
Speaking to guests at the official launch ceremony, Bill Irby, senior VP of unmanned systems, said that while it looked similar to the Shadow M2, the Group 3 Nightwarden had ‘significant improvements and enhances to the system’.
‘There are now many differences between the two platforms. Nightwarden offers significant operational flexibility and for a similar capability to a Group 4 [system],’ he said.
Payloads have also been trialled either with that Nightwarden or legacy unmanned systems to a point where a new UAV is expected to carry communications, sense and avoid, communications intelligence and Textron’s Fury UAV missile, depending on the requirement.
The aircraft has been demonstrated in the US and internationally for potential domestic and foreign customers, although no firm order announcements have been made yet. Officials said that there was interest from Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
A variety of US and international military customers currently operate the Shadow UAV, with hundreds having been delivered. It is not known what decision, if any, the US military has made on a future replacement of the Shadow.
In January this year the US Army awarded a $206 million logistics support contract to Textron Systems Support Solutions for the Shadow.
An official release stated that the contract will support the 117 Shadow systems that have been fielded and deployed by the US Army, US Marine Corps, Army National Guard, US Special Operations Command and the Australian defence forces.
The contract covers systems sustainment management, engineering support, contractor logistics support management, field service operations, depot material repair and management and post production software support. Work will run through until 2018.
Endurance of the Nightwarden is around 15 hours with an operational ceiling of around 16,000ft and the UAV has been described as being ‘production ready’ by company officials. It also is able to fly at speeds of up to 90kt with around 65kg in payload capacity.
The new system has also demonstrated runway-independence by landing on unimproved surfaces and typically uses an automated take-off and landing system.
Typically, the Shadow tactical UAS conducts ISR missions, as well as target acquisition operations for the US Army, US Marine Corps and US Special Operations Command.
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