US military researchers seek new system to increase range of MALE drones
Washington, Mar. 20 : Military researchers in the United States have sought a system to allow small ships to launch medium-altitude long-endurance aircraft (MALE) drones, in a bid to increase their range.
The Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) program is named after the tern, a seabird that possess remarkable endurance and can migrate thousands of miles every year, reports Fox News.
In the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program, the MALE UAV will carry a 600-pound payload and operate 600 to 900 nautical miles from its home vessel. The launch and recovery system will fit Littoral Combat Ship 2 class ships and other surface combat vessels.
TERN will give the military the advantage to strike mobile targets anywhere in the world at any time around the clock. And it will give the military an easy, quick, cheap way to deploy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.
Daniel Patt, DARPA program manager, said it is like having a falcon return to the arm of any person equipped to receive it, instead of to the same static perch every time.
Airborne intelligence is a crucial asset for today's warfare. Currently the military is limited to helicopters, fixed-wing manned and UAVs, the report said.
Fixed-wing manned and unmanned aircraft have good distance and endurance, but the problem is they require land bases with long runways or aircraft carriers. Helicopters can also provide such surveillance, but they have distance and flight time restrictions.
It will also need to be designed in a way that requires minimal ship modifications and can work with limited operation and maintenance personnel.