Military Embedded Systems

DARPA orders second Tern UAS test vehicle


November 18, 2016

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

DARPA orders second Tern UAS test vehicle
Image courtesy DARPA

ARLINGTON, Va. DARPA [Defense Advanced Researched Projects Agency] has asked Northrop Grumman to build it a second "Tern" test vehicle as part of its mission to equip forward-deployed small-deck ships -- such as destroyers and frigates -- with their own specially designed unmanned air systems (UASs).


The Tern program -- a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) -- envisions a new medium-altitude, long-endurance UAS that could be launched into long-duration flight from helicopter decks on smaller ships in rough seas or expeditionary settings. Current state-of-the-art UASs cannot take off and land from confined spaces in such conditions.

The Tern Phase 3 design is a tailsitting, flying-wing aircraft with a twin contrarotating, nose-mounted propulsion system. The aircraft would lift off like a helicopter and then make a maneuver to orient it for wing-borne flight for the duration of a mission; upon completion, the aircraft would return to base, transition back to a vertical orientation, and land. The system is sized to fit securely inside a ship hangar for maintenance operations and storage. DARPA is scheduled to test scale models throughout 2017 to culminate in a series of at-sea flight tests in late 2018.


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