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FAS Project on Intelligence Reform

Vertical Take Off and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV)

The Vertical Take Off and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) is a new start in FY00, with IOC by 4QFY03. The VTUAV System will be used afloat by Navy units and ashore by USMC units and will provide local commanders near-real time imagery and data to support Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) requirements. The VTUAV System will replace all Pioneer UAV Systems for all tactical echelons, and add extra systems. The VTUAV will provide the ability to conduct unmanned reconnaissance operations from all ships capable of conducting helicopter operations including amphibious ships as well as cruisers and destroyers. The small footprint of the VTUAV will reduce the impact on flight deck operations compared to the Pioneer, resulting in a major paradigm shift on tactical UAV operations. Coupled with performance improvements over Pioneer, the VTUAV number of systems, availability, and reduced impact on personnel and flight deck operations will vastly expand the opportunities for UAV employment in tactical operations. Appendix C identifies amphibious ships and surface combatants that are planned to host the VTUAV and provides further discussion of installation and operations considerations.

Additionally, the VTUAV will bring a quantum improvement in payload sensor capability for naval surface fires. The VTUAV will be a force multiplier of significant value to ships equipped with Extended Range Guided Munitions (ERGMs), firing 5"/62 guns, the Advanced Gun System of DD-21, and land attack missiles. It will expand its host ship’s capability across many mission areas by providing a platform that dramatically affects ‘sensor-to-shooter’ capabilities along with the ability to conduct real-time battle damage assessment (BDA). Operations from amphibious platforms will provide seamless integration with the types of naval aircraft already in operation on these ship classes.

A VTUAV system will consist of air vehicles, ground control stations (GCSs), modular mission payloads (MMPs), data links, remote data terminals (RDTs), launch and recovery equipment, and tactical communications equipment. The VTUAV Operational Requirements Document (ORD) specifies a system to consist of two GCSs, 4 air vehicles, 4 EO/IR laser designator MMPs, and two RDTs. GCS, tactical communications, and transportation and logistic support equipment will vary in number and configuration depending upon specific shipboard or land-based use.

The VTUAV effort will be awarded using a cost plus incentive fee/award fee contract which consists of an Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase with three options for Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) VTUAV Systems. The EMD phase consists of a line item for one (1) VTUAV System and line items for the attendant data, training, operational support, and technical manuals. The first LRIP Option consists of one (1) Marine Corps VTUAV System and support equipment/tools, training, technical manuals, and data. The second LRIP Option consists of one (1) Navy VTUAV System and one (1) VTUAV Sea-Based Ground Control Station, support equipment/tools, technical manual updates, training, and data. The third LRIP Option consists of one (1) NAMTRA VTUAV System, support equipment/tools, physical configuration audit, and data.

The VTUAV System is to be equipped with a "Basic Payload" capability consisting of a day/night passive imagery sensor and laser designator with the capability to identify and designate a standard-sized NATO target of 2.5 square meters from a slant range of 8 kilometers (km) (Threshold)/16 km (Objective). The "Basic Payload" will be required for VTUAV system developmental and operational tests planned for 2QFY01 - 3QFY01 timeframe. Additional mission areas for future growth payloads for the VTUAV system are: Reconnaissance, Mine Countermeasures, Target Designation, Battle Management, Chem/Bio Reconnaissance, Signals Intelligence, Counter Cam/Con/Deception, Electronic Warfare, Combat Search and Rescue, Communication/Data Relay, Information Warfare, Ship Missile Defense and Anti-Submarine Warfare. The payloads to be considered should fall within the VTUAV platform's payload capability of 200 lbs. (T) / 300 lbs. (O), 2 cubic feet internal volume and 2.5 kW of power.

On 09 February 2000 Northrop Grumman Corp., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $93,721,957 cost-plus-incentive-fee, award-fee contract for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV) program. The EMD phase consists of one VTUAV system, technical manuals, operations security program, operational and maintenance training, and pre-operational support.

Initial Deployment Plan



VC-6 Supports: VMU’s Support:
(10) Battle Groups
  • Navy systems
    • aboard DDG-51 class
    • equipped with TCDL
    • ship alteration required
    • future deployments:
    • CG-47
    • CG-49
    • DDG-79
    • DD-21

Unit Training

  • Webster Field
  • Fallon (GCS required)
(6) MEU’s
  • USMC systems
  • for MEU, deploy on LHA/LHD class
  • equipped with CHBDL
  • ship alteration required
  • future deployments
  • LPD-17

Unit Training

  • Yuma, Cherry Point
  • CAX, Red Flag

MPF forces

  • (3) systems stored afloat

Initial System Distribution



  • EMD system
  • combined DT, FOT&E


  • 2 LRIP systems*
  • transfer to fleet units after IOT&E


  • 1st Production system*
  • later production system*

VC-6 (VU-1, VU-2)

  • 10 Battle Group systems
    • 2 home guard systems*
  • 4 systems


  • 4 systems


  • 3 stored systems
    • last production block


* configured with GCS

Various Vertical Takeoff and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
10mar.JPG (9491 bytes) 327flt.jpg (6131 bytes) y-left air.jpg (13201 bytes)
Eagle Eye Guardian Vigilante
heliwin.JPG (31603 bytes) cypher.JPG (14763 bytes) May26_22.JPG (11084 bytes)
Heliwing Cypher Wing Fan
heli2.JPG (26753 bytes) drgn.JPG (28949 bytes) DragonStalker.jpg (69903 bytes)
QH-50 Dragon Warrior Dragon Stalker
9800321.tif (250094 bytes) argus.jpg (10669 bytes) micro1.tif (675912 bytes)
Free Wing Scorpion Schweizer Argus Micro Craft Lift Augmented Ducted Fan
98003-4.jpg (307552 bytes)
Sky Technology Aerohawk

Sources and Methods

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Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood

Updated Monday, February 14, 2000 12:57:08 PM