Northrop Grumman « Ferret » and « Sea Ferret » UAVs

Stargazer2006

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Type

RSTA, BDA and precision attack UAV/cruise missile.

Development

The original Ferret was designed for launch from US Army helicopters such as the RAH-66 Comanche as a long-range extension of observation capability and/or as a standoff weapon.The Advanced Technology and Development Center of Northrop Grumman's Military Aircraft Systems Division originated the Ferret concept in August 1991, initially to support deep attack by helicopters at ranges beyond 300 km. The company built four air vehicles. All trials were conducted with the unpowered version. A derivative powered by a Sundstrand TJ50 miniature turbojet would have a maximum speed of 310kt and a range of over 600 km. The US Army evaluated Ferret under two Advanced Concepts and Technology II contracts, which included trials of the vehicle carrying a classified sensor payload on the Naval Air Warfare Center's China Lake range in the second quarter of 1995.

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Sea Ferret


The Sea Ferret was a submarine-launched aerial reconnaissance drone developed by the U.S. Navy, designed to be launched from within a Sub-Harpoon missile canister and controlled by a submerged submarine to provide covert surveillance, weapons targeting, choke point interdiction, and battle damage assessment. While its primary mission was reconnaissance, Sea Ferret was a weapon, carrying a nine-kilogram (20 lb) warhead, capable of destroying smaller targets like command centers and surface-to-air missile launchers.The air vehicle can carry sensors for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target-acquisition (RSTA) missions, and a warhead allowing it to attack targets that it finds.
In an effort to promote the Sea Ferret as the subject of an advanced concept technology demonstration
, the company collaborated with the USN, US Marine Corps (USMC) and US Army aviation components in a successful joint operational demonstration of Sea Ferret, sponsored by Commander Submarine Forces Pacific, in December 1996 onboard the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USSAsheville (SSN-758), cruising off the coast of southern California and simulating launches of Sea Ferret in support of three exercises over a two-day period.

A smaller version has also been envisaged for USAF use, carried either externally or inside the weapons bays of such aircraft as the F-117, F-22, JSF and B-2.
The army considered sponsoring further development under a rapid-prototyping effort in early 1996, but the money was diverted to pay for operations in Bosnia. A Cessna 206 carrying the air vehicle beneath its wing represented Sea Ferret in flight.

General characteristics
  • Weight: 145 lb (66 kg)
  • Length: 75 in (1.9 m) long
  • Range: 370 nautical miles (685 km)
  • Loiter: 2 hours
  • Speed: 300 knots (550 km/h) maximum, 80 knots (148 km/h) minimum
  • Warhead: 20 lb (9 kg)
Above information compiled from several sources, notably Jane's.


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Stargazer2006

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According to this source (AW&ST) the Army Ferret's evaluation began at Fort Rucker in 1993:
http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/9407112457/army-evaluates-northrop-dual-purpose-missile

Other online sources indicate that evaluation of the Ferret continued until at least 1996.
 

yasotay

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Ah one of my favorite "SHOULD have beens". Much work was done at Ft. Rucker on this thing. It was really impressive in its flexibility. I will cut to the chase and tell you how it died, even with all of the technology working well together. I believe it was late 1995 the Army had an In Progress Review (IPR) at Ft. Rucker. Many folks filed into the briefing room to hear the briefing to a three star general (I'm not sure what his post was). After the obligatory 1.2 metric tons of briefing slides had been run through the general turned to the Commandant of the Aviation Center and says: "With this capability I can cut the Comanche requirement in half." In the ensuing silence not a soul misunderstood the death of the Ferret.
The U.S. Navy continued to play with the technology for a while including as mentioned as a sub-launched capability. They had bigger and sexier funding requirements (like everyone in the mid-90's), so the program finally went into the vault.
 

Stargazer2006

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Very interesting, yasotay. Thanks a lot for sharing!

yasotay said:
The U.S. Navy continued to play with the technology for a while including as mentioned as a sub-launched capability. They had bigger and sexier funding requirements (like everyone in the mid-90's), so the program finally went into the vault.

Where did this particular info come from? I'm attaching a chart taken from RTO Educational Notes 9: Development and Operation of UAVs for Military and Civil Applications and as you can see it clearly states that the Sea Ferret was meant to be air-launched. (the same chart can also be found here: www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/p010752.pdf‎)
 

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jsport

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yasotay said:
Ah one of my favorite "SHOULD have beens". Much work was done at Ft. Rucker on this thing. It was really impressive in its flexibility. I will cut to the chase and tell you how it died, even with all of the technology working well together. I believe it was late 1995 the Army had an In Progress Review (IPR) at Ft. Rucker. Many folks filed into the briefing room to hear the briefing to a three star general (I'm not sure what his post was). After the obligatory 1.2 metric tons of briefing slides had been run through the general turned to the Commandant of the Aviation Center and says: "With this capability I can cut the Comanche requirement in half." In the ensuing silence not a soul misunderstood the death of the Ferret.
The U.S. Navy continued to play with the technology for a while including as mentioned as a sub-launched capability. They had bigger and sexier funding requirements (like everyone in the mid-90's), so the program finally went into the vault.
ditto the 'should have been'..airfoil should be updated to maybe a fold out 'BWB in a box' stealth and importantly endurance, low speed..especially if the future is single scout/atk helio..
 

Stargazer2006

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I actually found a reference to submarine-launch in SUBMARINE UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE SYSTEM. . .PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE EFFORTS, an online PowerPoint presentation dated March 2002 which contains the following entry:
  • USS ASHEVILLE & Sea Ferret Demo -1997
    » Successfully simulated organic and inorganic UAV operations & SOF support
Although it doesn't clearly say that the type was actually test-launched from a submarine, it certainly indicates such capability and projected use.
 

Stargazer2006

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From The Growing World of Unmanned Airborne Spies (Armada International Complete Guide, 2004) (bold type is mine)

In 1996 the US Navy conducted an experiment in which it simulated a launch from a missile container in a submarine torpedo tube and an aircraft already in the air was then guided by the submarine to the target and recovered by parachute. This concept was proposed for the Northrop Grumman Sea Ferret but does not appear to have been developed further.
 

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