Approximately 90 percent of these hours were amassed in support of combat operations at locations throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, fuelling an average of more than 100,000 combat flight hours per year during each of the last three years.
Key to the success of Shadow TUAS is continuous operational readiness, which AAI supports through a comprehensive performance based logistics (PBL) programme. In fact, the Shadow TUAS programme recently received the Best PBL Implementation Award at the seventh-annual Defense Logistics Awards ceremony, and also earned the 2010 Gerald R. Beck System Level PBL Award presented by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Together with the U.S. Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office, AAI’s maintenance and logistics support has driven system availability of more than 95 percent.
“It is a great privilege to work so closely with our Shadow TUAS customers,” says Division Vice President of TUAS Programmes Vance King. “Our field service representatives are deployed with system users and work alongside them to provide maintenance and repair services, along with system performance upgrades and enhancements. That partnership has helped us stay attuned to dynamic user requirements, so we can evaluate and implement next-generation technologies to make their jobs easier, safer and more successful.”
During 2011, AAI will continue deployment of its innovative laser designation capability, as well as the new extended wing enhancement introduced in 2010. The extended wing provides an additional six feet of wingspan, increasing the size of the aircraft’s fuel cell and enhancing mission endurance to a total of nine hours. AAI also is testing a new, fuel-injected engine to further improve aircraft performance and reliability.
In addition, AAI is exploring several communications-related system enhancements. Among them is a Joint Tactical Radio System-compliant communications relay capability to create a Shadow-based aerial tier to the battlefield network. AAI also is supporting the fielding of a new Shadow system configuration incorporating the Tactical Common Data Link for even greater bandwidth, data encryption capability and information security.
“Our team excels at identifying and integrating innovative new performance capabilities onto Shadow TUAS,” says King. “Rapid deployment and robust technologies are critical to our customers’ mission success, and AAI delivers solutions to those requirements every day.”