Army Adding Length, But Not Weapons to Shadow Drone Wings

10/11/2011
By Eric Beidel
The Army and Marine Corps both are big fans of the Shadow unmanned air vehicle. But only the Marine Corps wants to weaponize it.
The Army has increased the Shadow's wingspan from 14 feet to 20 feet to provide for increased endurance and the ability for the aircraft to carry a heavier payload, but has no plans to equip it with weapons, Lt. Col. Scott Anderson, the Army’s product manager for Shadow said Oct. 11 at the Association of the United States Army’s annual expo in Washington, D.C.
 
There are stations on the Shadow’s wings that would allow it to carry a 25-pound weapon. If the service ever decided to follow the Marine Corps’ lead, it would be ready, said Col. Robert Sova, requirements chief for Army UAS.
“There’s been a discussion about the Army weaponizing Shadow for a long time,” he said. “We’re taking a hard look at it as we go forward. We may change where we’re at right now.”
The Marine Corps is basing its demand for a weaponized Shadow on requests from field commanders in Afghanistan. The Army uses Shadow differently, Sova explained, allowing the UAS to perform reconnaissance missions while providing fire support from manned helicopters.
“We have weaponized systems out there with the Warrior Alpha, with the Gray Eagle, with the Hunter and we just don’t fire a lot of those weapons,” said Tim Owings, the Army’s outgoing deputy project manager for UAS. The Army already has many ways to kill targets, but not a lot of ways to provide persistent surveillance, he said.
“It becomes a trade between endurance and lethality,” Owings said, and commanders in theater are tilting that balance toward persistence. They depend on Shadow to fly eight and nine hour missions, but weighing the system down with weapons reduces its ability to stay in the air for long periods, he said.
The Marine Corps will have plenty of munitions to choose from to hang on Shadow, which cannot carry the Hellfire missiles used by larger UAS. Sensing that one of the services eventually would look to arm Shadow-sized UAS, companies have been building munitions in the 10 to 15 pound range.
Lockheed Martin already has created the 15-pound Shadow Hawk and Raytheon the 12-pound small tactical munition with Shadow in mind.

Topics: Armaments, Aviation, Robotics, Unmanned Air Vehicles

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