AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems, an operating unit of Textron Systems, a Textron Inc. company, has announced that its Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TUAS) achieved a landmark 750,000 total flight hours during a U.S. Army mission supporting combat operations in Afghanistan. In fact, the vast majority of Shadow TUAS flight hours, amassed during more than 173,000 missions, have taken place over the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
While Shadow TUAS have been a staple of the Army Aviation arsenal since the early 2000s, and the Marine Corps shortly thereafter, the systems themselves have experienced a continuous cycle of enhancements to reflect changing operational needs and environments. AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems currently is engaged in a system-level upgrade to create and deliver a fleet of enhanced Shadow TUAS for its Army and Marine Corps customers.
“This is another tremendous milestone for the Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System. It continues to build on its reputation as the workhorse for Army UAS. The important thing to take away from this recent accomplishment is that 90 percent of the hours were flown in combat supporting the warfighter. This achievement was made possible by the hard work and commitment of many dedicated folks. We here at the Ground Maneuver Program Office are looking forward to the next 750,000 hours, and we have no doubt the RQ-7B Shadow will get there,” says LTC Scott Anderson, Ground Maneuver Product Manager at the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office.
Dubbed the Shadow Version 2, or Shadow V2, by the Army, the upgraded Shadow TUAS will include an extended wing with hard points for external stores, the all-digital Tactical Common Data Link, and scores of additional capabilities through the brand-new Universal Ground Control Station. While delivering greater performance and reliability for core missions such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, communications relay, laser target designation and battlefield damage assessment, the Shadow TUAS also can excel in emerging roles such as manned/unmanned teaming.
Additional Shadow TUAS customers include U.S. special operations customers, as well as international allies including Australia, Sweden and Italy.
“We continuously look at new technologies to assess their potential benefits for Shadow system users, and stay close to the voice of the customer on emerging threats and requirements,” says Senior Vice President and General Manager Steven Reid of AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems. “With those considerations, and the best practices cumulated from years of in-theater operations, we are delivering a system that continues to anticipate and meet user needs now and well into the future.”