An Advanced Gunship was the topic of the 2004-2005 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation Undergraduate Team Aircraft Design Competition. The 2004-2005 AIAA Undergraduate Team Design RFP, which calls for an advanced military gunship that can destroy personnel, light armored vehicles, and buildings at low cost. Administered by AIAA's Student Programs Department, these competitions are part of a wide-reaching program that recognizes excellence in aerospace engineering study at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Specific Requests for Proposal (RFP) are issued and either teams of 3-10 or individual undergraduate/graduate students compete to devise the best design to fit the RFP in a given time period.
The design mission of the Gunship consists of takeoff from home base, climb to best cruise altitude, cruise at best cruise speed to the target area at least 500 nautical miles from takeoff, loiter at 20,000 feet for a minimum of four hours with a sustained manuever of 1.5g's, descend to 10,000 feet for target identification and to expend payload, climb to cruise altitude, cruise back to home base, loiter, and land. The Gunship will be at risk of being shot down by enemy/terrorist (threat) weapons while on any of the mission segments. Of interest in this design competition is the segment where the Gunship descends to 10,000 feet and attempts to identify the target and deliver its ordnance. The primary threat weapons at this altitude are the AAA and the MANPADS.
According to the RFP, recent events in the Middle East and elsewhere pointed to a need for a new Gunship aircraft to respond to rapidly changing situations. The key feature is to achieve high survivability versus low cost threats (Anti-Aircraft Artillery - AAA and Man-Portable Air Defense Systems - MANPADS). To be viable, this aircraft must be capable of carrying weapons that provide precision and persistent firepower affordably. Due to the use of gunships to interdict small and lower value targets the weapon cost per shot or kill must be low. Also due to the increasingly tight Defense budgets, these aircraft should be designed to keep both acquisition and life cycle costs as low as possible.
In the "Opportunity Description" (similar to a request for proposals), the AIAA strongly encouraged the consideration of aircraft survivability features in the design of the Advanced Gunship - the second sentence in the Opportunity Description reads: "The key feature is to achieve high survivability versus low cost threats (Anti-Aircraft Artillery-AAA and Man-Portable Air Defense Systems -MANPADS). And the number one General Design Requirement is: highly survivable versus advanced MANPADs and AAA threats."
The objective of the AIAA project was to design a new, survivable military aircraft that is capable of providing persistent, precision firepower economically. Key elements of this project were to estimate the size, weight, performance, and cost; and to perform a layout of a preferred advanced Gunship concept. Alternate payloads, time-on-station, mission ranges, and flight profiles (speed and altitude) should be investigated. The proposal included a set of aircraft technologies incorporated into the design that are direct contributors in achieving best capability for an affordable cost.
The Undergraduate Team Aircraft-Advanced Gunship winners were:
1st Place: Firefox California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo-Firefox (Phil Lau, Kelly Vilven, Michael Grinenko, Ryan McDicken, Darren Dub, Stephen Kubik) Faculty Advisors: David W. Hall, Alicia Robertson, and Brian Rupnik
2nd Place: Gryphon California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo-Gryphon (Stephen Kubik, Jason Lumsden, Christian Thompson, Matthew Farr, Lauren Fong, Michael Kosman, Julianna de la Montanya, David Gist, Matthew Sutherlin) Faculty Advisors: David W. Hall, Alicia Robertson, and Brian Rupnik
3rd Place: Carcharodon California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo-Carcharodan (Leif Engen, Scott Peery, Brady Mitchell, Theo Coetzee, Jason Tolvtvar, Ryanb Fowler, Bob Little) Faculty Advisors: David W. Hall and Brian Rupnik
California Polytechnic State University, Fallen Angel Aerospace presented Gryphon. Gryphon is both highly survivable against MANPADS and AAA and capable of affordable, precise, and persistent firepower. Dorsal mounted engines shield Gryphon?s exhaust plume effectively reducing IR signature and increasing survivability against MANPAD threats. Gryphon features an H-tail for redundant flight controls as well as redundant systems for increased survivability. The primary weapons featured on Gryphon are the GAU-13 for rapid area suppression and the Bushmaster II for pinpoint attacks. These primary weapons are turret mounted to provide flexible and unpredictable attack patterns. Gryphon?s arsenal includes a side mounted howitzer for persistent and flexible heavy firepower. To provide greater standoff and destructive potentiality, Gryphon also features Hellfire missiles and JDAM bombs. The combat mission profile for Gryphon consists of a 500 n.mi. ingress, followed by a four hour loiter and attack period, and a 500 n.mi. egress. Gryphon is a versatile aircraft that effectively fulfills the close air support, airinterdiction and armed reconnaissance roles. Preliminary capability analyses show that three Gryphon aircraft in the close air support role are capable of responding to a situation anywhere in Iraq within 15 minutes. This same task currently requires approximately eight AC-130's.
Tip of the Sword Aerospace, of California Polytechnic State University, was presented with the challenge to conceptually design an advanced military gunship. Tip of the Sword Aerospace responded with Paragon, a highly survivable gunship that has the capability to provide precise and persistent firepower in high threat combat environments. Paragon is an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) that employs a conventional configuration with a high wing, H-tail, and tricycle style landing gear. It is equipped with 15,526 pounds of weapons, including two M230 30mm chain guns, 16 HELLFIRE II?s, and 8 GBU-12 Paveway II bombs. Since the Paragon is a UCAV, it can persist in extremely high risk daytime and night-time environments, without risking the lives of a pilot or crew members. This report presents the conceptual approach used to design the Paragon, focusing on the preliminary sizing, weight estimation, and structural layout processes. Initial sizing was primarily driven by the weapons payload requirement of at least 15,000 lbs, a minimum mission radius of 500 n.m., and a four hour time-on-station without refueling. The structural layout was designed to maximize survivability by implementing robust and redundant design features.
Texas A&M University aerospace engineering students captured eight of 11 awards at the 2005 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Region IV Student Paper Conference in April in Albuquerque, NM. In the Team Design Division, senior aerospace engineering team members Shane Schouten, Michael Albright, Randi Florey, Chris Haag, Guadalupe Perez and Ben Riley taking first place for their paper, "The 'Revenant' Advanced Gunship Design." Second place in the Team Design Division was awarded to Texas A&M seniors Brandon Ray, Timothy Thornton, T.J. Fuller, Kyle Helbing, and Alexandrea Anderson for their paper, "Design of the DA-222 Negotiator Advanced Gunship."
Team Archangel at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University decided not to re-invent the AC-130, but instead create a totally new gunship to meet the RFP requirements. The Archangel is a single-engine aircraft, similar in size to larger fighters currently being used but significantly smaller than the AC-130. The design does not utilize guns; instead it carries state-of-the-art munitions that guarantee more kills at a lower overall cost with reduced collateral damage. The primary weapon is the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS). APKWS consists of 80 small laser-guided missiles that can easily engage small targets such as troops as well as light vehicles and buildings. Archangel also has the capability to carry laser and GPS-guided bombs for larger targets.
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