Icarus Launches Optionally-Piloted Multi-Role Aircraft

 - August 14, 2020, 9:23 AM
A company impression shows the TAV armed with air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles under the wings, and what appear to be anti-ship missiles on the fuselage pylons. (Photo: Icarus Aerospace)

Montreal, Quebec-based company Icarus Aerospace has unveiled a new military aircraft that it describes as “highly customizable, versatile, capable and reliable." Known as the Tactical Air Vehicle (TAV), and as the Wasp in its fully militarized armed overwatch/persistent presence version, the optionally-piloted design employs a similar twin-boom, high-tail configuration to the Vietnam-era North American OV-10 Bronco.

Icarus claims that the TAV offers 90 percent of the combat capability of a modern fighter at 15 percent of the cost. As such the type could prove attractive to both large air arms seeking a low-cost ISR/attack/maritime aircraft and to small air arms requiring a versatile combat aircraft that can perform many tasks within limited budgets.

To be powered by two turboprops in the 1,700-hp class, the TAV has an MTOW of up to 21,000 pounds, service ceiling of 36,000 feet, and an expected top speed of 360 knots. Unrefueled endurance is calculated at 6.5 hours, but the aircraft has a refueling probe and automated aerial refueling capability.

In terms of equipment the TAV can be fitted with a conformally-mounted 360-degree Leonardo Osprey radar, and can carry one or two electro-optic sensor turrets. Eleven hardpoints can mount a wide array of weaponry, including air-to-air missiles, and there is a three-barrel rotary cannon mounted in a fairing on the lower port fuselage side. An option is a turret-style cannon mounted on the underside, similar to that trialed by the YOV-10D NOGS variant of the Bronco. Total payload is listed as 8,000 pounds.

The TAV has been designed for operations from austere, rough-surface airstrips, and for ease of deployment. The design is envisioned as an optionally-piloted vehicle, with the ability to be flown by a crew of one or two, by remote control, or fully autonomously. The TAV is a network-centric, “swarm-capable” aircraft, says Icarus.

At first glance the TAV/Wasp would appear to be a natural contender for the armed ISR/light attack/special operations support/border patrol roles. This growing field is currently dominated by the Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine and Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, although there are other players, such as the Textron Scorpion, the South African AHRLAC/Bronco II and missionized agricultural aircraft.

Icarus, however, is targeting a much wider mission set with the TAV, to include electronic warfare and intelligence-gathering, among other duties. The TAV is also being aimed at maritime patrol/anti-submarine warfare, and the listed stores options include anti-ship missiles, sonobuoys and torpedoes. Other roles include medical evacuation, inflight refueling and re-arm/resupply transport. These roles would presumably make use of the aircraft’s long fuselage to accommodate fuel tanks and refueling gear, cargo and wounded personnel.

In addition to the baseline TAV, Icarus is proposing the 27,000-pound MTOW Branta version with a 98-foot wing span instead of the Wasp's 51-foot wing. This offers an endurance of over 30 hours and a service ceiling in the order of 50,000 feet, with only a slight reduction in top speed to 330 knots. As with the TAV, it is an optionally piloted vehicle that can be used for both armed and unarmed ISR tasks.