The Skylynx Unmanned Aircraft System

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May 16, 2006 As Unmanned Aerial Vehicles become ever more prevalent, the UAV roadmap is slowly evolving and the US Marine Corps is now moving to fill a gap at the Regimental level in its UAV reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition capability between the close range coverage of a Tier I system (ideal for platoon/company level) and the far-more-capable Tier III UAV systems with limited availability. Accordingly, the specs have been written for a Tier II UAV system and proposals to provide a concept demonstrator were due on May 11. To date, only one of the proposals has been made public – BAE Systems is proposing an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) centered on its Skylynx platform, a system it claims to be a more versatile, mission-configurable alternative to competing systems.

Skylynx provides a stable airborne platform capable of carrying payloads weighing up to 70 pounds. It is designed for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition missions using a high-resolution electro-optical/infrared imager, IR marker, and laser rangefinder integrated on one gimballed set.

The Skylynx UAS can “plug and play” with various other mission payloads and remain airborne for up to 16 hours. It’s also easy to launch, operate, recover, support, and transport: the full Skylynx system, consisting of three air vehicles, ground control station, launcher, and remote receive terminal, plus six Marines, can be transported by two CH-46 helicopters.

The specs for the Tier II UAV system require a combination of endurance and system reliability, capable of sustained, 12-hour per day operations for 30 days and one surge capability of 24 hours per day for a 10-day period during any 30-day cycle. The system must be HMMWV-transportable in theater (no individual component of the system will require no more than a Two-Marine lift) and consist of: Air Vehicles, a Ground Control Station, Data Link, Remote Receive Terminals, Modular Mission Payloads, and support equipment for the operations and maintenance of the system.

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