DARPA orders second Tern UAS test vehicle

ARLINGTON, Va. DARPA [Defense Advanced Researched Projects Agency] has asked Northrop Grumman to build it a second "Tern" test vehicle as part of its mission to equip forward-deployed small-deck ships -- such as destroyers and frigates -- with their own specially designed unmanned air systems (UASs).

Image courtesy DARPA

The Tern program -- a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) -- envisions a new medium-altitude, long-endurance that could be launched into long-duration flight from helicopter decks on smaller ships in rough seas or expeditionary settings. Current state-of-the-art UASs cannot take off and land from confined spaces in such conditions.

The Tern Phase 3 design is a tailsitting, flying-wing aircraft with a twin contrarotating, nose-mounted propulsion system. The aircraft would lift off like a helicopter and then make a maneuver to orient it for wing-borne flight for the duration of a mission; upon completion, the aircraft would return to base, transition back to a vertical orientation, and land. The system is sized to fit securely inside a ship hangar for maintenance operations and storage. DARPA is scheduled to test scale models throughout 2017 to culminate in a series of at-sea flight tests in late 2018.

Topics covered in this article