Aircraft

DARPA gives Northrop Grumman nod to develop unmanned VTOL flying wing for small US Navy ships

Artist's concept of a full-scale demonstrator system of a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air system (UAS) designed to use forward-deployed small ships as mobile launch and recovery sites
Artist's concept of a full-scale demonstrator system of a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air system (UAS) designed to use forward-deployed small ships as mobile launch and recovery sites
View 1 Image
Artist's concept of a full-scale demonstrator system of a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air system (UAS) designed to use forward-deployed small ships as mobile launch and recovery sites
1/1
Artist's concept of a full-scale demonstrator system of a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air system (UAS) designed to use forward-deployed small ships as mobile launch and recovery sites

DARPA has revealed more details of the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (Tern) program that aims to turn smaller US Navy ships into miniature aircraft carriers for Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV). Phase 3 of program to develop a tail-sitting flying wing designed to take off and land vertically from destroyers and other small ships was awarded to Northrop Grumman, which will build a full-scale demonstrator for sea trials.

Named after the family of long-distance migrating seabirds, Tern is a joint program between DARPA and the US Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR). Its goal is to develop launch and recovery systems for a medium-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned aircraft comparable in size to a Reaper drone and capable of operating from a small flight deck in heavy seas up to Sea State 5.

Until now, few details about the Tern were made public, but DARPA has released a Northrop concept image showing an unmanned flying wing that takes off and lands from a tail-sitting position using twin counter-rotating, nose-mounted propellers similar to those on the experimental Convair XFY-1 Pogo of the 1950s that failed to make it past prototype stage.

According to DARPA, this configuration will allow the Tern to lift off vertically from a ship's flight deck, change to horizontal flight, complete a mission, reorient itself, then make a vertical landing on its mothership. When not in use, the craft can be stowed away securely below deck or in the hangar.

Phase 3 tasks Northrop with building a demonstrator aircraft, which will be put through shore-based testing before starting sea trials using a test platform with a flight deck similar to that on a destroyer.

"The design we have in mind for the Tern demonstrator could greatly increase the effectiveness of any host ship by augmenting awareness, reach and connectivity," says Dan Patt, DARPA program manager. "We continue to make progress toward our goal to develop breakthrough technologies that would enable persistent ISR and strike capabilities almost anywhere in the world at a fraction of current deployment costs, time, and effort."

Source: DARPA

8 comments
Mzungu_Mkubwa
Interesting concept shot... doubtful it would employ the same castors as used on my office chair (while leaving them dangling out in the slipstream), but mkay...
Bruce H. Anderson
MzunguMkubwa, maybe a sleek caster like on hospital stuff. Lock them in line with the wings for takeoff and flight, and then release them to move about on deck. And it looks like these units could nest on a stagger below decks, so you pack 'em in tight, even with a shrouded fan.
jocco
No castors needed, landing on a rolling deck it would just roll around.
ezeflyer
Counter-rotating props have not seen much use. Why?
TedT_USA
Interesting how the passage of time has dimmed history, e.g.: the US Navy in the 1960’s and 70’s had a UFH radio controlled drone that carried “live” torpedoes as a stand-off weapon system against submarines. It flew from the flight desk of FRAM'ed destroyers. Flight Officer launched and recovered the bird; the CIC Officer flew it over the sub to drop the torpedo so that the sub had nil time to evade. The factory in St. James, Long Island is now Flowerfield, a catering facility. Yes, I flew the bird from CIC and yes, I've been to Flowerfield. http://www.gyrodynehelicopters.com/dash_history.htm http://www.gyrodynehelicopters.com/
Miles
How would you prevent a flying wing that lands on its tail from blowing over in a wind? Nearly all naval ships in motion develop their own windstorm in addition to nature at sea. It was not clearly thought out. This would occur before you could pack the plane away.
nubwaxer
more fancy military hardware providing defense contractors more profits. something like this is for fighting imaginary enemies in imaginary wars and the sky is the limit for costs foisted on taxpayers. we've been taken prisoner by the pentagon mafia that forces us to pay "protection" money or else . . .
TedT_USA
There have been various implementation's of "traps" to capture a helicopter that lands on a pitching destroyer deck. Some have been successful, some not so much. By the way, wind is needed for the takeoff and recovery, more so for the recovery. The DASH was typically brought down onto the deck with winds about 15 degrees off the port beam. This was to provide clear air that was not roiled by the hanger infrastructure. Cheers!