May 13, 2006 EADS Military Air Systems has flight tested an innovative jet-powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) it has code-named 'Barracuda'. Barracuda is eight metres long, has a wingspan of more than seven metres and a maximum take-off weight of just over three tonnes, all propelled by a Pratt & Whitney jet turbine delivering 14 kN thrust. The flight test in Spain lasted 20-minutes, followed a pre-programmed course completely autonomously and marked the completion of the first test phase. Following the first public presentation of Barracuda at the International Aerospace Exhibition ILA in Berlin next week, development will be continued.
"We envisage putting the test system, which has within roughly three years been designed and developed up to test maturity by Military Air Systems in Germany and Spain, at the disposal of all those partners in Europe who are interested in the development and production of UAVs for military and other national tasks," said Johann Heitzmann, Head of Military Air Systems within the EADS defence activities.
"We now have an additional, more powerful test platform at our disposal for the further development of our core technological competencies in this extremely important field," said Dr. Stefan Zoller, the EADS Executive Committee member responsible for the company's defence and security business.
The technology demonstrator has been predominantly financed from EADS' own funds and contributions from the participating suppliers and was built at the EADS sites in Augsburg, Manching and Getafe/Spain.
The test series now having been completed, Dr. Rolf Wirtz, who as Head of Operations at EADS Military Air Systems is responsible for the design and development of the UAV demonstrator, revealed first details of this EADS technology demonstrator: "The structure of this unmanned aircraft is made entirely of carbon-fibre composites (CFC) and was manufactured on the basis of a new EADS patent at the company's Augsburg plant. The wings, which are also manufactured from CFC, come from the EADS plant in Getafe near Madrid. Apart from the landing gear, this is an "electric airborne system" that, in contrast to conventional aircraft, therefore dispenses with hydraulic components and uses electro-mechanical actuators instead," Wirtz explained.
In unmanned systems, the decisive features are failsafe and non-jammable data transmission between the UAV and the ground station and also reliable flight guidance and control. This requirement was met by, among other things, developing and integrating a triplex flight control and navigation unit.
The demonstrator is designed as a user-friendly technology platform for the testing of a wide spectrum of payloads. The avionic system, for instance, was developed as an open and modular structure that allows a large number of sensors to be integrated into the demonstrator. According to current planning, these will include electro-optical and infrared sensors, laser target designators, an Emitter Locator System (ELS) consisting of detectors for picking up radio-magnetic signals and also advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems, which can be integrated on the multisensor principle, being accommodated in the payload bay. In addition to this, it is also possible to equip the testbed for stores tests.
Even if this UAV demonstrator is not a product that is destined for series production, either alone or in cooperation with European partners, EADS will be able to gather fundamental know-how for operationally mature next-generation UAV products. With this demonstrator, EADS Military Air Systems will gain practical experience in the interoperability of unmanned systems within "Network Centric Operations" conducted in line with the latest NATO criteria and in autonomous operation interacting with other assets and systems deployed in aerial warfare. The demonstrator will also perform pioneering work towards the certification of UAVs for flight in controlled airspace and the development of "intelligent UAVs" that can autonomously switch from the surveillance of a predetermined area to a reconnaissance role, thus supporting military customers in their decision-making. This experimental testbed will therefore help the European aerospace industry to maintain its role as a global player in such important future technologies.