The Israeli source who pointed us to the image said the dorsal antenna is retractable, but we are not sure it can be extended; it could be a fixed satellite antenna used for ISTAR, SIGINT, communications relay.
Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System will perform cargo resupply, CASEVAC and ISR missions
According to Darpa “ARES is a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) flight module designed to operate as an unmanned platform capable of transporting a variety of payloads. The ARES VTOL flight module is designed to have its own power system, fuel, digital flight controls and remote command-and-control interfaces. Twin tilting ducted fans will provide efficient hovering and landing capabilities in a compact configuration, with rapid conversion to high-speed cruise flight.”
ARES is the transformer-like, UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) capable to move between an airport, a warship, or an improvised landing zone and the battlefield, and perform a wide variety of missions, including cargo transportation, casualties evacuation as well as Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance.
The U.S. Navy has successfully launched an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) from a submerged submarine, the first step to “providing mission intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the U.S. Navy’s submarine force.”
Then the Sea Robin launch vehicle with integrated XFC reaches to the ocean surface where it appears as a spar buoy.
Upon command of the submarine, it is then vertically launched from Sea Robin to a marginal altitude where it assumes horizontal/conventional flight configuration thanks to the its X-wing airfoil autonomously deployed by the folding-wing XFC.
During the first launch, the drone flew for several hour mission “demonstrating live video capabilities streamed back to Providence, surface support vessels and Norfolk before landing at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), Andros, Bahamas.”
The XFC is a fully autonomous, all electric fuel cell powered folding wing UAS with an endurance of greater than six hours. The non-hybridized power plant supports the propulsion system and payload for a flight endurance that enables relatively low cost, low altitude, ISR missions. The XFC UAS uses an electrically assisted take off system which lifts the plane vertically out of its container and therefore, enables a very small footprint launch such as from a pickup truck or small surface vessel.
European news outlets reported last week that the German Euro Hawk Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) program will be terminated due to the prohibitive cost of modifying the platform to conform to collision avoidance requirements. If the reports are true, Euro Hawk will join a similar project which had the poor luck to be canceled not due to cost over-runs, performance, or technical issues, but due to Air Traffic Control limitations.
The XQM-93 UAV, code-named Compass Dwell, was conceived by the Air Force in the late 1960’s to fulfill a role extremely similar to the current tasking of Euro Hawk. Compass Dwell was intended to provide 28 hour endurance at an altitude of 40,000 and deliver persistence surveillance of Warsaw Pact air defense systems. Euro Hawk is believed to be tasked to provide surveillance of Eastern European military assets.
Image credit: USAF via Designation-Systems.com
Two variants of the project were built, both using a converted Schweizer sailplane. The XQM-93 airframe was built by Ling Temco Vought and mated to a turboprop power plant. The other model, built by Martin Marietta and designated Model 845, featured a turbocharged piston engine. Both airframes flew successfully in 1972, with the Model 845 achieving a flight time of 27 hours and 54 minutes. The UAVs were intended to target Soviet air defense radars and provide standoff jamming during wartime.
Compass Dwell was intended to operate high above commercial air traffic, but would still need to climb and descend through those altitudes during each mission. European air traffic controlling agencies refused to allow the XQM-93 to operate in their airspace, and the program was canceled in 1973.
The termination of these two programs demonstrates the unique challenge posed to operators of UAV systems. Despite the inherent performance benefits in unmanned systems, the limitation of sensors and need to safely de-conflict airspace remain just as much hurdles in 2013 as they did four decades ago.