UV Europe 2011: Shadow 200 primed for upgrades
Textron-AAI is waiting on a decision from the US Army and Marine Corps to refit Shadow 200 UAVs with extended wings for increased endurance and payload capabilities, a company official has revealed.
Speaking to Shephard at the UV Europe conference in Brussels, AAI's division vice president for international programmes Alan Colegrove, said he was hopeful both services would select the upgrade. However, he conceded that such a decision would be 'money driven' in today's financial climate.’
To date, AAI has delivered 117 baseline aircraft to the army, marines and US Special Operations Command since 2001 with more on order and ongoing plans to support the services until 2025. However, AAI said it had already delivered another six upgraded platforms to US forces which are already operational.
The upgrade comprises a thicker, longer wing and would increase Shadow 200's wingspan from 16 to 20ft, Colegrove explained. This, he added, would increase the UAV's endurance from six to nine or ten hours as well as doubling payload carriage up to between 45 and 80 lb dependent on the mission.
It also includes a series of hooks and hardpoints attached to the wingtips for SIGINT payloads which have already included carriage of SINCGARS (Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System) AN/ARC-152 radios for communications relay missions programmable from the ground control station.
With a total of two dozen Shadow 200 systems (comprising four air vehicles plus associated equipment) operating in Afghanistan and Iraq performing 'hundreds of hours' of ISR missions every month, Colegrove explained that such a communications relay capability was proving more and more popular, especially in the more rugged terrain of Afghanistan.
'Now every brigade has a Shadow  platoon and it's all about video and the ability to disseminate the video. All commanders want access to the UAS real time video,' Colegrove continued. It also emerged that several of the UAVs have recently been deployed with laser designators integrated into POP 300 EO/IR payloads for 'buddy lasing'.
In the wider market, Australia is understood to have aspirations for the extended wing version although Colegrove said it would not receive the upgrade until the existing Foreign Military Sales contract had been fulfilled. He did, however, describe how Australian baseline Shadow 200 UAVs were being delivered with laser designators.
All eight UAVs destined for Sweden will be legacy systems, Colegrove explained. Similar to the Australian requirement, Sweden has aspirations to deploy Shadow 200 to Afghanistan later in the year. Finally, Italy is also receiving a total of 16 UAVs in baseline configuration and these are due to be delivered next year.
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