Shadow UAV in Iraq
|Primary function||tactical reconnaissance for ground maneuver forces|
|Payload||POP-200/300 27 kg (60 lb)|
|Length||3.4 m (11.2 ft)|
|Wingspan||3.9 m (12.8 ft)|
|Weight||375 lb (154 kg) fueled and oiled|
|Fuel capacity||44 L of 87 octane gasoline, also capable of 100LL Avgas (with few modifications)|
|Power plant||UAV Engines 741|
|Speed||normal operating range 60 to 110 knots (110 to 200 km/h)|
|Ceiling||15,000 ft (4,600 m) MSL|
|Maximum endurance||4 hours (6 hours for RQ-7B)|
|Range||50 km (27 nautical miles) with a single GCS and up to 125 km with a pair of GCSs|
|Unmanned aerial vehicle|
The RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is used by the United States Army. Launched from a rail, it is recovered with the aid of arresting gear similar to jets on an aircraft carrier. Its liquid nitrogen cooled gimbal and digitally stabilized electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) camera relays video in real time via a C-band LOS data link to the ground control station (GCS). The "R" is the Department of Defense designation for reconnaissance; "Q" means unmanned aircraft system. The "7" refers to it being the seventh of a series of purpose-built unmanned reconnaissance aircraft systems.
The RQ-7 Shadow is the result of a continued US Army search for an effective battlefield UAV after the cancellation of the RQ-6 Outrider aircraft. AAI followed up their RQ-2 Pioneer UAV with the similar but refined Shadow 200, and in late 1999 the Army selected the Shadow 200 to fill the tactical UAV requirement, redesignating it the RQ-7. The Army requirement specified a UAV that used a gasoline engine, could carry an electro-optic/infrared imaging sensor turret, and had a minimum range of 31 miles (50 kilometers) with four hour endurance on station. The Shadow 200 offered at least twice that range, powered by a 38 hp (28.5 kW) rotary engine. The Army requirement dictated that it be able to land in a soccer field.
Each Shadow system includes four aircraft, two ground stations, a launch trailer, and support vehicles for equipment and personnel. A SIGINT payload is in development, and is scheduled for service in 2008. It will swap out with the EO turret. The Army does not currently have plans to arm the Shadow with light munitions.
The US Army Aviation & Missile Command (AMCOM) in Huntsville, Alabama, has developed a supply canister, named "Quick-MEDS (Medical Emergency Delivery System)", that can be carried in pairs by a Shadow and parachuted to front-line troops with medical supplies or other emergency gear. With the appearance of a little fat aerial bomb, it has a loaded weight of 9 kilograms (20 pounds), 75% of that being payload; dimensions of 81 by 20 centimeters (32 by 8); and four "lattice fins" on the tail. These are shaped like paddles, with the flat side facing the airstream, and contain a lattice of airfoils to provide the maximum flight surface in the smallest form factor. The idea was developed by the Russians and is licensed under Russian patents. Quick-MEDS has a crushable nose full of plastic foam and a parachute in the tail. Quick-MEDS could also be deployed by any helicopter or light aircraft. It has been designed to be scalable to 90 kilograms (200 pounds) and a GPS-guided version is being designed, for deliveries to troops in close contact with an enemy.
Shadow did not see service in the Afghanistan campaign of 2001-2002, but it did fly operational missions during the US intervention in Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent occupation of that country. The operating conditions in Iraq proved hard on the UAVs, with heat and sand leading to engine failures, leading to a high-priority effort to find fixes with changes in system technology and operating procedures. Despite the difficulties, the RQ-7A Shadow was enthusiastically received by field commanders, and regarded as an important asset in helping fight Iraqi insurgents fighting US occupation forces. Shadow UAS have since flown more than 100,000 combined hours in support of OIF.
Production of Shadow aircraft shifted to a generally improved RQ-7B variant in the summer of 2004. The RQ-7B features new wings increased in span by 91.4 centimeters (36 inches); the new wings are not only more aerodynamically efficient, they are "wet" to increase fuel storage for greater range and endurance. Endurance has been increased to 6 hours, and payload capability has been increased to 45 kilograms (100 pounds). After reports from Iraq that engines were failing, in 2005, the Army's UAV project manager called for the use of 100LL, an aviation fuel, rather than the conventional 87 octane mogas. Avionics systems have been generally improved, and the new wing is designed to accommodate a Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) when that system becomes available.
AAI has also built a scaled-up Pioneer derivative known as the "Shadow 600". It also resembles a Pioneer, except that the outer panels of the wings are distinctively swept back. A number of Shadow 600s are in service in several nations, including Romania.
- This article contains material that originally came from the web article Unmanned Aerial Vehicles by Greg Goebel, which exists in the Public Domain.
- RQ-7 Shadow 200 Tactical UAV
- Shadow TUAV update
- UAV payloads
- Iran Protests U.S. Aerial Drones (RQ-7 crashes in Iran), Washington Post, November 8, 2005
- AAI Corporation (development/manufacturing)
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