SOCOM Interested In Hummingbird Helicopter

16 August 2002

The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is looking into its possible use of the A-160 Hummingbird helicopter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), DoD acquisition chief Pete Aldridge said recently.

The UAV's ""first flights this year were quite successful, and the U.S. Special Operations Command is very interested in using it as a sensor and communications node,"" Aldridge told a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) conference in Anaheim, Calif., on July 30. Hummingbird, under development by Frontier Systems and DARPA, had its first forward flight early this year.

The Army ""plans to use"" Hummingbird as part of the service's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, Aldridge said.

The Army is also considering putting DARPA's Airborne Communications Node (ACN) on an A-160 type platform for signals intelligence and communications relay (Defense Daily, March 6).

Both Raytheon [RTN] and Britain's BAE SYSTEMS have been working on systems for the ACN program.

The goal of the A160 program is to develop a stealthy surveillance rotorcraft capable of carrying a 300-500-pound payload with an endurance of more than 40 hours, an unrefueled range of more than 2,300 miles and a top speed of about 160 mph.

The A160 UAV uses a new rotor system that utilizes a patented hingeless, rigid three-blade rotor with low tip speeds and low disk loading for increased endurance.

The rotorcraft's carbon composite blades are also stiff and tapered from the rotor head to their tips.

During the recent DARPA conference, Aldridge also spoke of the Organic Air Vehicle (OAV) under development by DARPA. A Boeing [BA]-Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) team foresees OAVs as part of its networked systems of systems concept for FCS (Defense Daily, June 6).

OAV is to hover and be a sensor for soldiers on the battlefield.

OAV ""will provide the individual soldier with the capability to detect the enemy concealed in forests or hills, around buildings in urban areas, or in places where the soldier does not have a direct line-of-sight,"" Aldridge said at the conference. ""OAVs can perch and stare, and essentially be sentinels for maneuvering troops. Rather than sending a soldier into harm's way to scout a particularly dangerous area, the unit can now use the OAV instead.""

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