Northrop Grumman has won a multi-million-dollar contract to develop a vertical-lift, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system (UAS) prototype to support U.S. Navy reconnaissance needs at sea.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced the $132.5 million contract Dec. 24 for phase 3 of its Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (Tern) program with the Office of Naval Research. N-G will cover $39.4 million for the cost of designing, developing, building, demonstrating and testing its proposed tail-sitting, flying-wing design with counter-rotating propellers.
The new UAS is intended to take off from and land on smaller Navy ships and perform intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and strike missions from medium altitudes. It also will “make it much easier, quicker and less expensive” for the Pentagon “to deploy persistent ISR and strike capabilities almost anywhere in the world,” said DARPA.
The Navy today relies for such missions on helicopters with shorter ranges from smaller ships and fixed-wing aircraft deployed from large carriers or runways ashore.