AAI Unveils Larger, More Capable Shadow

 - October 24, 2011, 8:55 AM
AAI Corp.’s Shadow M2 is a larger, more capable version of the RQ-7 Shadow operated by U.S. and other forces. (Photo: AAI)

AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) earlier this month introduced the Shadow M2, a growth version of its Shadow 200 UAS with increased payload capacity for signals intelligence, electronic warfare and other new missions. The M2 will fly higher and longer than the current RQ-7 Shadow operated by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps., the company said. Flight tests are scheduled to begin next year.

The blended-wing Shadow M2 has a wingspan of 25 feet–4.6 feet more than the RQ-7B with wing extension–and replaces the existing Shadow’s UEL AR741 rotary engine with new Textron Lycoming heavy-fuel engine “designed to manned aircraft specifications.” AAI, of Hunt Valley, Md., and Lycoming are operating units of Textron Systems.

Used at the brigade level for reconaissance, surveillance and target acquisition, the pneumatic catapult-launched RQ-7B is fitted with a POP-300D optronic sensor payload, providing day and night electro-optical and infrared video, as well as infrared and laser target designation. AAI said the Shadow M2 would have increased payload volume, dual payload bays and external wing hard points for mission equipment, communications and (navigation) sense-and-avoid equipment. The aircraft can be rapidly reconfigured for combined mission capabilities, including synthetic aperture radar (SAR), signals intelligence, electronic warfare and the Army’s Triclops multi-sensor payload system.

“The Shadow M2 can launch, fly and laser designate at higher altitudes, and incorporates a larger parachute, simpler equipment access and enhanced landing gear for greater ease of use,” AAI said. The M2 is compatible with Shadow 200 support equipment and ground infrastructure. AAI provided few specifics in a release at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C., where it also announced new multi-mission payloads for the Shadow developed with Phoenix Global Support. The payloads are housed in a modular pod and carried on hard points on the aircraft’s wing.

The Shadow UAS was fielded by the U.S. Army as the RQ-7A in 2002, and upgraded to the RQ-7B standard in 2004. The Marines transitioned to the Shadow in 2007, retiring their RQ-2 Pioneer unmanned aircraft. AAI in April said Shadow had surpassed 600,000 total flight hours, 90 percent in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The extended-wing enhancement was introduced in 2010, increasing the size of the aircraft’s fuel cell and facilitating an endurance increase to nine hours. AAI also is deploying laser-designation capability to the fleet.