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Schweizer RU-38B Twin Condor

The RU-38B airframe evolved directly from the SA 2-37A design developed by Schweizer Aircraft Corporation, of Elmira, NY. It offers by incorporating twin turbine engines, twin tailbooms, a tricycle landing gear, a larger cockpit, higher useful loads and gross weight, and more payload capacity to achieve a significantly upgraded capability. Contrary to some reports, RU-38A is in fact the official military designation of this aircraft, rather than simply the manufacturer's designation.

The RU-38 is designed to fly slowly along a coastline at an altitude of about 1,500 to 2,000 feet. The Coast Guard plans to use the aircraft in Miami to support such programs as drug enforcement, fishery patrols, illegal alien surveillance, and pollution control. Because of the RU-38's general aviation design, Coast Guard maintainers will be able to maintain it with a small crew using mostly off-the-shelf commercial parts.

The most important differences between the RU-38B and the SA 2-37A are the addition of twin turbine engines in a pusher-puller configuration; additional payload weight and volume; and a larger crew compartment. Other changes from the RG-8A include enhanced mufflers, twin tail, tricycle landing gear, improved sensors, and noise signature reduction enhancements for detection of surface vessels.

The RU-38A is equipped with a push/pull engine system, with one Teledyne Continental GIO-550A flat-six engines at each end of the fuselage. Because the RU-38B will routinely operate at low altitudes over water or hostile terrain, the addition of a second engine is important for safety. One unique feature of the RU-38A is the front-engine exhaust pipes are positioned for exhaust to flow over the wings, allowing the wings to serve as a sound shield. This permits quiet operation when the rear engine is shut down. Normally the plane operates only a single engine during normal cruise operations. The aft engine has a full-feathering propeller (with accumulator) and will typically be shut down during the "quiet" surveillance mode. The aft engine is in reality a redundant engine available to eliminate the risk of engine failure and to provide higher cruise speeds during ingress and egress.

The RU-38A has a "twin-boom" configuration with the forward end of each boom consisting of a pod containing various instruments. The port pod contains the AN/APN-215(V) color radar with search and mapping capabilities, while the starboard pod contains an AN/AAQ-15 Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) system and a Low-Light-Level TV vision system. In addition, the RU-38A is fitted with OMEGA and GPS receivers, and HF/VHF/UHF clear voice and communications encryption systems.

With introduction of the RU-38B, Schweizer Aircraft has taken its family of reconnaissance platforms to the next logical step by providing a covert, twin-engine, turbine-powered aircraft that can perform both low and high altitude roles. In addition, it addresses customer requirements for enhanced crew safety, increased payload capability, and added mission effectiveness.

The RU-38A is a re-build of the single-engine RG-8A previously used by the US Coast Guard. The first USCG RG-8A was turned over to Schweizer in 1994 for conversion to the RU-38A configuration.

In 1995 the Coast Guard identified a particular upgrade to the center wing assembly of the RU-38A surveillance aircraft which could significantly enhance the aircraft's service life, range and endurance on operational missions. Additional funding may be required to conduct this upgrade. By 1998 the Coast Guard operational community indicated a need for additional night-capable, low-signature ("stealthy") aircraft capability. Although the RU 38A aircraft were coming into service, upgrades were necessary for them to be more effective at fighting the drug war. In addition, the Coast Guard expressed interest in high technology, low signature rotorcraft technology which could have an impact on counter-drug operations. The Congress provided $2,000,000 for the Coast Guard for 1999 to pursue modifications or acquisitions in this area, with the specific objective of complementing other counter-drug assets by providing covert surveillance capability.

Schweizer finished building the RU-38A in 1995. Members of the 445th Flight Test Squadron started planning the flight test project in July 1997 and began traveling to Elmira in October 1997 to help prepare the aircraft for flight testing.

As of February 1998 a Coast Guard RU-38A program review was underway in Elmira N.Y. at Schweizer Aircraft Corporation. The twin was 75% through contractor qualifications. Performance testing will be completed at Edwards AFB in March98. Other interest in this unique aircraft design at that time was found in the FBI and DOD (SOUTHCOM).

In 1998 funds were authorized to be appropriated for the Department of the Treasury for fiscal years 1999, 2000, and 2001 for the enhancement of air coverage and operation for drug source and transit countries for purchase and for operation and maintenance of 3 RU-38A observation aircraft (to be piloted by pilots under contract with the United States).

The Air Force 445th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB began flight testing a newly designed Coast Guard RU-38 reconnaissance aircraft in July 1998. The dual front and rear propeller-driven aircraft was one of two prototypes to be tested by the squadron. Testers put the RU-38 through a complete range of flight testing, such as envelope expansion, evaluation of flying qualities and stall testing. Test pilots flew about 100 flights over four months to certify the aircraft's airworthiness.

In September 1999 the two aircraft were delivered to CGAS Miami for active service. These aircraft operated over the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean in support of various drug interdiction operations. The program was apparently halted in mid-2000 due to problems with the aircraft meeting mission requirements.

The world order has changed and with it, governments are now faced with waging a new type of war. Regional instability, drug trafficking, environmental issues, international terrorism, and illegal immigration are examples of escalating problems that cross international boundaries and threaten the security of nations. The first and most important element in coping with these illegal activities is the ability to detect and monitor events in a timely and secure fashion. Conventional means of gathering intelligence such as large airborne collection systems and satellites lack the flexibility, dwell times, and cost effectiveness to meet many of today's needs. There is a growing requirement for airborne platforms that can covertly perform surveillance missions during either day or night and in a cost effective manner. To meet this need, Schweizer Aircraft has developed the RU-38A twin-engine surveillance aircraft.

The design of the RU-38B is optimized to perform surveillance missions. Because it is point designed to carry integrated sensor payloads, it achieves better mission performance at significantly lower costs than aircraft designed for passenger or cargo carrying roles. By equipping the RU-38B with twin, turbo-charged engines and a modular payload concept, the same basic airframe can be adapted for low altitude "quiet" reconnaissance or high altitude standoff surveillance roles.

The RU-38B features 140 cubic feet of dedicated payload volume and the ability to operate with 800 pounds of mission sensors. Because the large payload bays were designed to accommodate palletized sensors, the RU-38B can be rapidly converted from one mission to another using a modular payload approach. Large access doors are provided to all payload bays. Payload sensors and mission avionics are located in both tailbooms and behind the pilot/co-pilot seats in the fuselage. The RU-38B has been engineered to facilitate incorporation of different sensors to meet customer needs for multi-mission flexibility.

The RU-38B is designed solely as a surveillance sensor platform. Its primary mission applications include border integrity protection, counter drug activities, intelligence collection against regional instabilities, fisheries patrol, environmental monitoring, and search and rescue. For many missions, the RU-38B will be equipped with a Sea Search Radar, Moving Target Indicator (MTI) Radar, or Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR); a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) System; a Low Light Level Television (LLTV), or High Resolution Zoom Television; and electro-optical, digital or conventional imaging systems. These sensors will be fully integrated to maximize day/night detection and monitoring capability. Precise GPS position data is integrated into the payload operator's display and the EO imagery recorded on the RU-38B's dual recording system. For other applications, the RU-38B will carry signals collection and direction finding equipment. It can also serve as a relay platform for control of UAV's or downlinking of signals from the ground or other aircraft. Mission effectiveness of the RU-38B results from its covert operating capability and integrated sensor suite. Mission flexibility results from its high/low altitude performance and modular payload concept.

The RU-38B mission flexibility is enhanced because its modular payload concept permits sensors to be changed rapidly. For example, the aircraft can be operated at night in a "quiet" mode performing a low-level surveillance mission and then quickly be converted with different payloads for a totally different daytime role.

The RU-38B crew station is spacious and designed to maximize the effectiveness of the sensor operator(s). The co-pilot in the left seat has full flight control and can serve as the backup sensor operator with displays and controls for all payloads. As an option, the RU-38B aircraft can have a dedicated sensor operator station located behind the pilot-co-pilot seats.



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