Army begins Future Tactical UAS prototype assessment

By Jaspreet Gill / April 9, 2020 at 3:59 PM

The Army on Tuesday kicked off its first Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System capabilities assessment with a soldier-operated flight at Ft. Riley, KS.

The FTUAS, a replacement for the RQ-7 Shadow UAS, will be used for reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting assistance.

The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division demonstrated one of four vertical take-off and landing UASs procured for the assessment, the service announced today.

The unit was assigned the "Arcturus UAV JUMP 20," the largest of the selected systems, weighing 210 pounds with an 18-foot wingspan. The UAV provides a reduced acoustic signature compared to the Shadow and can launch and recover from a confined area with minimal ground support equipment, according to officials.

"The extended endurance of the system allows multiple operators to take turns training on the payload at altitude, while a second aircraft conducts repeated launches and recoveries to train operators and crew chiefs on critical modes of flight," an Army release states.

Soldiers over the next five months "will operate the system as a surrogate for their RQ-7 Shadow, performing similar tactical tasks for the BCT, but with the added vertical take-off and landing capability and control while on the move."

The assessment will be followed by brigade-level field training exercises and a combat training center rotation, according to the release.

The Army in December announced five BCTs that would begin testing FTUAS prototypes. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, KY, is slated to test the system next.

The assessment schedules are under "regular re-evaluation as COVID-19 conditions change," according to the service.

The four remaining units will be assigned the Martin V-Bat, Textron Aerosonde HQ, L3-Harris FVR-90 and a second Arcturus UAV JUMP 20.