Northrop Grumman revealed a flying-wing tailsitter design as the company’s offering for an experimental unmanned air system that can bring Predator-sized payload and endurance to naval ships smaller than aircraft carriers.
The design concept forms the basis of Northrop’s proposal for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Tern programme. DARPA plans to award the contract in January to build and fly a full-scale prototype from a barge or decommissioned navy ship, says Chris Hernandez, senior vice-president of research, technology and advanced design for Northrop.
At DARPA’s request, Northrop is not releasing pictures or drawings of its Tern concept, but displayed a model of the aircraft on a 11 December tour for journalists in Los Angeles.
Northrop’s unmanned Tern design harkens back to the manned Lockheed XFV-1 concept of the early 1950s, which also featured a tailsitter configuration with nose-mounted counter-rotating propellers to provide vertical thrust for take-off and landing and forward thrust in horizontal flight.
But Northrop adds to the tailsitter approach by combining the engine with a pure flying wing design, a hallmark of several of the company’s bomber and surveillance aircraft since the mid-1930s.