EADS Forges Ahead with Barracuda UCAV Trials
EADS Cassidian reports positive results from a third flight-test campaign conducted recently from Goose Bay, Canada, with the second prototype Barracuda UAV. Five flights during June and July each lasted up to one hour and proved various new mission modes, including autonomous 4-D navigation and cooperative flying with a second UAV. Unlike the previous two campaigns in 2009 and 2010, the latest flights were funded entirely by the company. EADS believes that it is leading the development of such operations in Europe, pending the first flights of the BAE Systems Taranis and multinational Neuron UCAVs.
A Learjet was the surrogate second UAV in the recent trials. It carried a Cassidian AESA radar, while the Barracuda was equipped with a Thales EO turret. The ground station fused downlinked imagery from these two sensors. The datalink was provided by Patria and Insta of Finland; together with Ruag of Switzerland, they are participating in the associated Agile-NCE (Net Centric Environment) program being funded by the Finnish and Swiss governments, as well as the German defense ministry (BwB).
“The Barracuda is a multi-purpose UAV test bed and systems demonstrator,” explained Thomas Gottmann, EADS Cassidian senior program manager. He said that developing autonomy, new actuation systems and mission management techniques has been the most important goal. However, he told AIN, the size of the Barracuda is close to that of a likely operational UCAV, with a two-meter-long payload bay. “It is a stealth design, although we have not done any signature measurements,” he added.
Gottmann said that EADS is now discussing with the BwB a possible fourth flight-test series in 2014. By that time, of course, EADS and BAE Systems might be the same company, sharing UCAV technology instead of developing it in competition.