Carrier borne Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for airborne early warning
The above sketches show an UAV to provide airborne radar coverage for an aircraft carrier. This UAV should hopefully be effective in detecting both surface vessels and other aircraft. It is anticipated that it would cruise at a modest 300 knots.
The thinking behind the concept is to pare the design back to the essentials, which is to remove everything not required to do the task. For example, removing the pilot allows the designer to remove the ejection seat, instrumentation, canopy, oxygen bottles and more. Furthermore reducing this weight allows the aircraft to be lighter yet again by having a smaller engine and smaller wing. A smaller engine uses less fuel, thus endurance is increased.
Construction is with composite materials. The aircraft is unarmed. The radar carried is a conventional rotating type in a fairing in the front of the aircraft. It is envisioned that this would be in the range of that carried by Westland Sea King radar reconnaissance helicopters as operated via the Royal Navy. A fixed wing UAV would have many advantages over a helicopter including longer range, higher transit speed, greater endurance and higher ceiling. Operating costs would be much less as well. The UAV is powered by a single jet engine on top of the fuselage. The intake could conceivably be extended forward so as to avoid any turbulence generated by the front wing.
The UAV layout is designed to be both compact to allow takeoff from a crowded flight deck, and to reduce storage space. The UAV has efficient high aspect ratio wings giving good endurance, however the layout provides high lift at high angles of attack, resulting in low landing and takeoff speeds. It is conceivable that the wings could be removed for storage if desired.
A UAV such as this should be able to operate off even small carriers without the aid of a catapult. It would provide good long range survielance of the surrounding area by account of it's high operating ceiling and long endurance. The UAV should hopefully be both relatively affordable in terms of both operating and maunufacturing costs due to its small size and simplicity.
Components of the aircraft are search radar, data-link, airframe, fuel, engine and tailhook. A more conventional layout is shown below, however this would have a wider wingspan making takeoffs from a crowded flight deck more difficult.