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Shadow UAS Clocks Up Half A Million Flying Hours

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AAI Corporation
: 21 May, 2010  (New Product)
Majority of flying time for the Shadow Tactical unmanned aerial vehicle has been in support missions for the US Army and Marines
AAI Corporation, an operating unit of Textron Systems, has announced that its Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TUAS) have amassed a record 500,000 flight hours, roughly 90 percent of which have been in support of US Army and Marine Corps combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to Project Manager Unmanned Aircraft Systems Col. Gregory Gonzalez, located at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., this milestone comes as the US Army celebrates the millionth flight hour for all of its unmanned aircraft systems, including Shadow TUAS.

“In April, the total number of combined hours flown by all Army UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] exceeded the one million mark. The Shadow system’s contribution to this major Army milestone cannot be overstated,” said Col. Gonzalez. “The Shadow aircraft has truly been the Army’s workhorse and it continues to demonstrate its worth every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. The one million total flight hour milestone and the 500,000 hour milestone for the Shadow system aren’t important as stand-alone statistics. The real significance is what those flight hours represent to the men and women in the Army. Those hours represent time flying above our Army formations keeping our soldiers safe as they convoy through perilous environments, time preventing insurgents from emplacing IEDs [improvised explosive devices], time spent finding weapons caches or other high-value targets, or even time spent training unmanned aircraft system operators. Our soldiers simply don’t want to go into battle without this capability.”

The Shadow system itself has evolved and matured during the course of those 500,000 flight hours. Originally scoped by the Army as a resource for Brigade Combat Team commanders that would provide 50 hours a month per system, the Shadow system quickly became a round-the-clock intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset for the brigades in which they are embedded. They also are a staple of daily operations, flying an average of 390 hours per month, per system. Today, multiple Shadow aircraft are airborne in both theaters of operation 24/7.

“Our priorities for the Shadow program have been and continue to be twofold — executing superbly on our commitments to ensure these assets get to the field quickly and remain available; and continuously evaluating where we can deliver new capabilities,” says Vice President of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Steven Reid of AAI. “As a result, we’ve seen Shadow TUAS mature to handle new mission profiles such as communications relay. System enhancements also have provided even greater reliability, longer endurance and greater interoperability with other battlefield assets. Our model of a constantly growing and improving Shadow system continues to unfold for our Army and Marine Corps customers just as we originally envisioned.”

Currently, AAI is in the midst of a fleet update program for the Shadow system, including a new extended wing design, which increases endurance and incorporates hard points for carrying external stores; wiring harness and software modifications, which enable the Shadow aircraft to accept the new laser designator payload; and a new electronic fuel injection engine and fuel system that are expected to increase the system’s reliability under a wide range of environmental conditions.

“We are privileged to have helped build the Army’s and Marine Corps’ TUAS capabilities alongside the brave men and women who utilize Shadow systems in the field,” says Division Vice President of Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Programs Russ Walker of AAI. “It’s a trust that we uphold every day by applying our decades of unmanned aircraft systems expertise, finding ways that Shadow TUAS can be even more user friendly, robust, reliable and innovative.”
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