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The US Army has kicked off efforts to start a formal vertical take-off and landing unmanned aircraft system program with the release of a request for information on the Medium Range Multi-Purpose (MRMP) VTOL UAS. The document says: "This RFI is to support the Army development of the MRMP acquisition strategy and to inform the collaborative Army and Navy Medium Range Maritime UAS (MRMUAS) Analysis of Alternatives (AoA)."MRMUAS is the Navy's planned follow-on to the MQ-8 Fire Scout VTOL UAS, to be fielded in 2018-19. It would be bigger than the MQ-8B, with a 9hr endurance and the capability for "remote split" operations, both line-of-sight from the ship and beyond-line-of sight from land.MRMP is part of a two-track Army strategy for VTOL UAS, the other being the quick-reaction deployment of three A160T Hummingbird unmanned helicopters to Afghanistan in 2012 carrying DARPA's ARGUS-IS wide-area surveillance sensor and a sigint payload.A160 with ARGUS pod (graphic: US Army)The Army says the Navy-led AoA, expected to take six months, will determine whether there can be a joint VTOL UAS program. Tim Owings, acting program manager for Army UAS, says the hope is the Navy's MRMUAS will meet most of the Army's requirements.The MRMP RFI also says: "The Army intends to move forward with the MRMP VTOL Technology Development phase in FY12 and deploy competitive systems in FY13. Deployments of the competitive systems will support down-select to a single vendor in FY14."The Navy's is seeking funds in the fiscal 2012 budget to begin the MRMUAS program, with plans to award two contracts for prototypes in the first quarter of FY13. Development testing of the winning design would be completed by the fourth quarter of FY16.Basic MRMP requirements are for an ISR platform with the capability for other missions including carrying cargo and weapons; able to carry three payloads simultaneously, including an EO/IR sensor; able to transit 300km at 16,000ft and hover out of ground effect at 10,000ft carrying a 1,000lb payload; or carry a 3,000lb sling load.
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