DARPA Tern Program Passes Two Milestones

By S.L. Fuller | December 6, 2016
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Technicians at Northrop Grumman subsidiary Scaled Composites perform key steps in assembly of first Tern air vehicle. Photo courtesy of Scaled Composites

In the past couple months, Northrop Grumman has passed two key milestones in DARPA’s Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) program, the company announced last week. Critical design reviews (CDR) implemented for the drone’s engine and management system culminated in success.

The General Electric engine and the vehicle management system should allow the aircraft to fly both vertically and horizontally. The successful reviews help the program stay on track for demonstration in 2018.


Named Tern by Northrop Grumman, the resulting drone should complete the goal to provide small U.S. Navy ships with long-endurance drones for operations including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. It could also be a contender for use by the U.S. Marine Corps.

Northrop Grumman won the $93 million Tern Phase 3 contract in 2015 to complete a detailed aircraft design, develop two full-scale demonstrators, land-based testing and at-sea demonstrations of launch and recovery.

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