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PQM-149 Sky Owl Short-Range UAV

Two UAVs that came and went during the 1980s were the Developmental Sciences-produced Skyeye and the Lockheed-developed Aquila. The Skyeye (a contemporary of Aquila) was a relatively large UAV used in Central America during the 1980's. It was superseded by the Sky Owl vehicle, which was created as a candidate for the now defunct U.S. Joint Services Short Range UAV program contract to he let in 1992.

In the late 1980s, in an effort to eliminate waste in the Department of Defense’s various UAV programs, Congress mandated that all research and development be centralized. This resulted in the creation of the Joint Remotely Piloted Vehicle Program. The Joint Program Office (JPO) managed all research, development, and procurement of UAVs for each of the services.

Between 1988 and 1990, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) validated Mission Need Statements for four categories of UAV capabilities: CloseRange, Short-Range, Medium-Range, and Endurance. The short-range and close-range UAVs were to provide near real-time imagery intelligence for Army, Marine Corps and Navy tactical commanders. A Joint Tactical UAV (JT UAV) program was defined as a single system that would comprise short-range (200 km), close-range (50 km), and marinized-air vehicles. The medium-range and endurance-air vehicles were not part of the JT UAV program.

Short-range systems have ranges of over 100 miles and would be able to launch and recover from land or ships. They would have an endurance of 8 to 12 hours and provide near-real-time information. Missions include many of the close-range missions plus a command-and-control role. A short-range system for the Army and Marine Corps was under development by two competitive teams: Israel Aircraft Industries/TRW and McDonnell Douglas / Developmental Sciences Corporation. Both services required about 50 short-range systems, which include 400 air vehicles.Two-thirds of the systems were to go to the Army, with the rest to the Marine Corps.

It was anticipated that one UAV–SR company would be integrated into the Airborne Exploitation Battalion of the Military Intelligence Brigade that supports each Corps and Echelon Above Corps. In contrast to Aquila, which had the Artillery branch as a proponent, the Military Intelligence branch was the SR-UAV proponent for the US Army.

The JPO granted contracts for prototype development in September 1989 to McDonnell Douglas Missile Systems and Israeli Aircraft Industries. The contracts gave each company 18 months to deliver a system for evaluation and testing by the JPO. During the first technical evaluation testing of McDonnell Douglas’s Sky Owl and Israeli Aircraft Industries “Hunter” systems, neither proved ready to move forward.

The Israeli RPV was regarded as the best of its type in the world. This position was reinforced after the Hunter RPV, the newest made by Mazlat, won the United States Army contract over the Sky Owl RPV, manufactured by McDonnell Douglas. That was no easy job. Testing lasted three nervewracking years. The RPV, for example, had to prove its capabilities in conditions of 45 degrees Celsius during the day and 20 degrees Celsius below zero at night. The most pleasant moments for the Malat representatives, which had them shouting for joy, came when they watched the McDonnell Douglas RPV crash on the ground more than once.

The UAV–SR Limited User Test – I (LUT I) was conducted at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, from 31 May through 3 July 1992. The purpose of LUT I was to examine the potential operational effectiveness and suitability of the Hunter system. Initially, two candidate SR-UAV systems were to be tested during LUT I. One candidate, the McDonnell-Douglas/Development Sciences Corporation Sky Owl UAV system was not certified as ready to execute the requirements of LUT I, and the system was not allowed to participate in the test. The results of LUT I were used to support a LRIP decision to buy seven Hunter systems.

After a few modifications, in 1992 the JPO picked the Hunter system as the SR UAV. The following year, the Defense Acquisition Board approved the start of the LRIP process. Malat won a tender worth $200 million and solidified its position as the best RPV manufacturer in the world. Further testing of the Hunter system continued simultaneously as the LRIP, during which numerous problems with the system began to emerge. Even before commencing LRIP, the General Accounting Office (GAO) warned that the Hunter system possessed numerous problems and advised against any production before further testing.

Length4.12 m (13 ft 6.2 in)
Wingspan7.32 m (24 ft)
Weight566 kg (1250 lb)
Speed204 km/h (110 knots)
Ceiling4880 m (16000 ft)
Mission Radius185 km (100 nm)
Endurance> 12 hours
PropulsionTwin-rotor rotary engine; 73.1 kW (98 hp)



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