The US Army conducted the first Soldier-operated flight of the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) Arcturus JUMP 20 on April 7 as part of the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) capabilities assessment.
Announced in December 2019, the assessment will evaluate four selected unmanned aircraft systems to define the capabilities needed in the next generation UAS for brigade combat teams. Data gathered during the assessment will be critical to determining the requirements for the Textron RQ-7 Shadow replacement.
The Arcturus JUMP 20 is the largest of the selected systems weighing 210 pounds with an 18-foot wingspan. Despite the size, it has reduced acoustic signature compared to the RQ-7 Shadow. “We’re used to screaming at each other and having to use radios in order to communicate,” said Spc. Christopher McCoy, a crew chief assigned to 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team which conducted the test. “You can stand right next to this aircraft and not even raise your voice,” said McCoy in a US Army press release.
According to Spc. Nicholas Miller, an unmanned aircraft systems operator also assigned to 1st Engineer Battalion, the JUMP 20 maintains the ability to launch and recover from a confined area with minimal ground support equipment. “Currently, we need a runway for launch and recovery of the Shadow. With the VTOL system on the JUMP 20, we don’t need any of that, we’re working with half the equipment,” he was quoted in the release.
Over the next five months, soldiers will operate the system as a surrogate for their RQ-7 Shadow, but with the added vertical take-off and landing capability and control while on the move. The assessment utilizes a crawl, walk, run mentality, progressing through operator and collective training, then culminating in brigade level field training exercises and a Combat Training Center rotation, the release said.
Other VTOL UAS participating in the assessment are the Martin V-Bat, Textron Aerosonde HQ, L3 Harris FVR-90, and a second Arcturus UAV JUMP 20. Their capabilities test are scheduled to begin in the coming months.
Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems is a signature effort within the US Army’s Future Vertical Lift Modernization priority. The Program Executive Office for Aviation’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office in collaboration with Army Futures Command is leading the capabilities assessment.