WASHINGTON — A recent contract award to Textron for “Block 3” upgrade kits will give the Army’s RQ-7 Shadow a souped up engine and other modifications that will make the drone more survivable, a company official said Monday.
The $41 million contract, which was awarded last month, includes funds to integrate and qualify the Block 3 modifications as well as 36 upgrade kits, said William Irby, Texton’s senior vice president and general manager for unmanned systems.
One of the biggest capability enhancements provided in Block 3 is a new engine, which boosts the Shadow’s current 38 horsepower motor to a more powerful 49 horsepower system, he said.
However, there are a number of other important benefits to the Block 3 kit, including the integration of the joint tactical radio system, voiceover capability and a more powerful mission computer. The upgrades will make it more survivable in bad weather, making it able to withstand up to two inches of rain per hour, and give it a more powerful cooling system, Irby said.
It also adds mufflers, which will reduce the noise the aircraft makes.
“One of the points of feedback over the years was that the Shadow was too loud.” There was a benefit to that sometime, because adversaries would stay indoors when they could hear it, he said, but the mufflers will allow the Army operate it in a more clandestine manner.
The Army has bought 114 Shadow systems so far, each of which includes four air vehicles, two ground control stations, and two datalinks, Irby said. Once the Block 3 kits are delivered, it will be up to the service to decide when and how its RQ-7s are upgraded.
“Most likely, at this point, those updates will be done on a kit basis in the field,” he said. “And that specific schedule has not been laid out yet.”
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.