The Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS) will be the replacement for the currently fielded RQ-7B Shadow in ground maneuver brigade combat teams. The FTUAS will be a low to medium altitude aircraft with modern datalinks, Electro-Optical/Infra-Red (EO/ IR) sensors, Infra-Red/Laser pointer/Laser designator/Laser range finder, data encryption, manned-unmanned teaming capabilities and the ability to operate autonomously. Designed with a Modular Open Systems Approach, FTUAS payloads will be easily interchangeable. The FTUAS will be readily deployable using Chinook Helicopters and provide commanders more flexibility on the battlefield.
As the replacement for the RQ-7B Shadow, the FTUAS will be the brigade commanders’ primary day/night, reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition system. It will allow the commander to see and understand the battle space and gain situational awareness on the battlefield. With runway independence, the system will expand the maneuver commander’s ability to conduct aerial reconnaissance where terrain would limit access for ground recon assets. The FTUAS’ reduced acoustic signature will improve survivability and reduce the chance of alerting adversaries.
The FTUAS will be able to observe heavily protected areas where commanders are hesitant to commit manned aerial platforms. It gives commanders a dedicated, rapidly-taskable asset to see critical elements of the battle space and support the increased demand for immediate situational awareness on the battlefield.
The program is currently in the ‘technology demonstration’ acquisition phase. Brigade combat teams are testing four different military purpose non-developmental UAS systems through FY21 to inform requirements for the FTUAS.