AAI to operate Aerosonde UAS at 11 sites in Afghanistan By: Huw Williams Published: 11 Jul 2012
AAI expects to establish and operate its Aerosonde 4.7G unmanned aircraft system (UAS) at 11 sites in Afghanistan by the end of this year.
The company received contracts in April from the US Navy (USN) and US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to provide turnkey UAS capabilities valued at up to USD874 million and USD600 million respectively.
Speaking at the Farnborough International Airshow 2012, Steve Reid, AAI's vice president of unmanned aircraft systems, told IHS Jane's that the number of systems at each location would not be fixed in order to provide the most flexible capabilities, adding that the sites themselves could also change.
Reid did not disclose the location of the sites or how many would be dedicated to SOCOM, but did reveal that five would be for the USN.
SOCOM's Mid-Endurance Unmanned Aircraft Systems II programme spans three years, while the USN's Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Services is a multiple-award contract encompassing both land- and sea-based UAS operations for the USN, the US Marine Corps and the US Air Force.
Under both contracts AAI owns the systems and provides an end-to-end capability, with all aspects of the operation of the UAS conducted by company employees under the supervision and direction of military personnel.
The rail-launched Aerosonde features a heavy fuel(Orbital) engine and has an operational endurance of up to 16 hours. While the standard ISR payload is a combined electro-optical/infrared and laser pointer system, AAI has been exploring a range of other systems, including ITT communications, Soldier Radio Waveform and unattended ground system radio relays. The US Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command's Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center is also using the platform to evaluate signals intelligence and measurement and signature intelligence systems.