Type: multipurpose high-altitude armed unmanned aerial vehicle
Powerplant: 2 x Williams International FJ44-3A
Significant date: 2005
After an initial announcement in 2004, an accelerated development program was started early in 2005 to weaponize a UAV prototype based on the Scaled Composites Model 281 Proteus designed by Burt Rutan. Designated the Northrop Grumman Model 395, it will be an unmanned combat air vehicle, and thus will differ from the Proteus in having no pilot, and will carry a weapons load underneath the fuselage. The Model 395 will be able to perform a variety of missions ranging from traditional intelligence gathering to weapons delivery. The It is currently competing for USAF's Hunter-Killer project, with an expected first flight of 2007. If it was awarded the contract, series production would likely take place in a Northrop Grumman facility.
On Thursday, February 24th 2005, Northrop Grumman used the Proteus to successfully demonstrate the ability to release munitions from a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) demonstrator during flight-testing over Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. This event was the culmination of a rapid prototyping process that allowed NG to define and conduct risk reduction, proof-of-concept testing for a new weapons delivery concept in just over 30 days. The drop of the 500-pound inert weapon from Proteus was the latest in a series of company-funded activities focused on addressing the U.S. Department of Defense's expanding medium-altitude endurance UAV requirements. It also supported Northrop Grumman's ongoing effort to develop their Model 395 multi-mission MALE UAV. Exceptional support from the Air Force's UAV Battlelab at Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field, Nevada, the 98th Range Wing at Nellis, and EDO Corporation, developer of the weapon release system, also proved instrumental in allowing us to meet a very ambitious schedule. The weapons drop was the first of several demonstrations the company planned to exercise and highlight Model 395's ability to fulfill a variety of special customer mission requirements.
The Model 395 builds upon investments by both the Department of Defense and Northrop Grumman for development systems that include the joint DARPA, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS), the U.S. Army's Fire Scout Class IV UAV for the Future Combat System, the advanced vehicle management system and future UAV ground control elements. It is the latest addition to Northrop Grumman's portfolio of UAVs, and rounds out a capability spectrum that includes the high-altitude, long-endurance RQ-4 Global Hawk aerial reconnaissance system; the medium altitude endurance Hunter II; its shorter-range, lower-altitude RQ-5 Hunter tactical UAV; and the RQ-8 Fire Scout vertical take-off and landing tactical UAV. "The Hunter-Killer UAV program falls into a new class of UAV that is less than a Global Hawk and more than a tactical UAV like the Predator A or Heron I," says Douglas Fronius, one of Northrop Grumman's long-time UAV concept developers. "We approached it from two different directions because it was a request for information and not a proposal."
The Proteus high-altitude, long-endurance research aircraft that has been flying for about five years around the world often carrying UAV-related payloads. The design is powered by two Williams FJ44-3A commercial business jet engines. "The aircraft has a lot of reserve internal volume and electrical power so that it is well-suited for a variety of electronic warfare payloads" in addition to weapons and intelligence and reconnaissance sensors, says Fronius. The Model 395 project meets the DoD's "Hunter-Killer" requirements of being able to stay aloft for over sixteen hours with a 3,000-lb. external load of munitions and can stay aloft for nearly 30 hours if configured for the ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) role. The initial cruise altitude with a full load would be 49,000 ft. rising to 55,000 ft. as fuel and weapons are expended. The 395's gross weight is calculated at 15,800 lb. The aircraft's total length is 56.4 ft. The span of the long wing is 78.6 ft.
The Model 395's twin engines would generate 36 kw. of electrical power at 40,000 ft. and cruise speed in baseline configuration. The two wings would give the equivalent lift of a much longer wingspan aircraft. Indeed, the Proteus was designed to carry very large external payloads in the center fuselage area, which makes it an ideal candidate for lifting large weapons loads. The vehicle is capable of carrying up to 6,500 lb. external payload by offloading fuel. The aircraft was designed so the wingtips can be removed and replaced with longer wing sections on both the canard and main wing. But the main advantage is centerline weapons loading on the fuselage versus the conventional loading on the wings; in other words, the Model 395 would use the centerline of the fuselage instead of the wings to carry its payload. That allows for ease in integrating weapon and large sensor payloads, and the centerline stations mean increase payload flexibility and none of the asymmetrical load issues which can cause instability in flight.
In addition, the central fuselage section above the payload area is removable and can be replaced with other configurations. "You can actually unbolt the fuselage and reconfigure it, for example with extra fuel tanks or payload bays, for different missions fairly quickly," said a Northrop Grumman official. The Model 395 would therefore be able to carry almost any weapon in the USAF inventory up to an EGBU-28 5,000-lb. bunker buster. "We would retain the convertible features that make the most sense once the requirements are established by the customer. For the 500-lb. JDAMs [Joint Direct Attack Munitions] and LGBs [laser-guided bombs] called for in the RFI our standard configuration would be six stations laid out in two clusters of three. Different racks could be installed for different weapons like 250-lb. small-diameter bombs or the bunker buster."
The aircraft can carry multi-spectral sensors to detect and track targets and release a myriad of munitions to destroy those targets, thus reducing the time from sensory to kill, a process known as the "Kill Chain". The Northrop Grumman surveillance package would initially include an electro-optical/ infrared sensor ball and a synthetic aperture radar with ground-moving target indicator capability for wide-area search. "Eventually the system could have a signals intelligence payload installed, although that's not part of the baseline RFI. The leading edges of the wings could be used to install antennas with enough separation for electronic surveillance, but even more attractive are the tail booms that provide a lot of usable real estate for antennas." Another feature is the front of the tail boom which is removable and can be extended forward as additional payload bays.
The jet-powered Model 395 is a cost-effective, multi-role, multi-mission UAV with the right altitude, speed, endurance and payload capacity to perform tasks that span its customers' air operations. In the hunter-killer role, it can carry multi-spectral sensors to detect and track targets and myriad munitions to destroy those targets. The Model 395 system will also extend the reach of air commanders by providing tailored support to ground forces in near-real time in almost any combat situation. A family of modular payloads will allow it to be optimized quickly for a variety of missions including signals intelligence, psychological operations, communications relay and area surveillance. In addition to its 900-pound internal payload capacity, Model 395 will be able to carry external payloads of up to 6,500 pounds. It also has more than 100 cubic feet of unused internal volume.
*"Hunter-killer" is an unofficial project name based upon an Aviation Week & Space Technology.
Population: not yet built
Crew/passengers: unmannedMain sources: