Europe’s largest and most secretive UCAV program
In February 2006, unofficial photo’s emerged of the EADS Barracuda – sometimes referred to as Barrakuda – unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator. The picture above shows German and Spanish flags on the tail, indicating a joint venture between the two countries’ militaries on the project.
According to the German newspaper Der Spiegel the Barracuda is developed as a reconnaissance aircraft, but could be modified to serve as a fighter/ strike drone as well. The aircraft had been shown to the head of the German air force. EADS is eager to enter a business that is currently dominated by the United States and Israel, Spiegel said.
The drone is said to be modelled after the highly successfull American Predator UAV. According to the paper the Barracuda would have made it’s maiden flight in February 2006, in a remote part of the Iberian Peninsula.
May 11 2006 – EADS Details Barracuda Program
On May 11, 2006 EADS finally released more details about the program, the Barracuda completed the first test phase in Spain with a 20 minute test flight. There had also been extensive ground tests, as you can tell by images on the right.
“With the first flight of our technology demonstrator for unmanned high performance military systems we have thrust the door wide open to one of the most promising future global markets in our branch,” said Dr. Stefan Zoller, the EADS Executive Committee member responsible for the company’s defence and security business. “We now have an additional, more powerful test platform at our disposal for the further development of our core technological competencies in this extremely important field,” Zoller continued.
Head of Operations at EADS Military Air Systems Dr. Rolf Wirtz details the demonstrator as followed: “The experimental system is eight metres long, has a wingspan of more than seven metres and a maximum take-off weight of just over three tonnes. The testbed is propelled by a jet turbine from Pratt & Whitney Canada which delivers 14 kN thrust. It operated entirely autonomously during its first flight, only being monitored for flight safety purposes from a ground station on the San Javier air base.”
With these specifications, the Barracuda UAV is Europe’s largest unmanned air vehicle.
The UAV uses many commercially available “off-the-shelf” components in it’s basic systems and many technological refinements.
A triplex flight control and navigation unit was developed to ensure failsafe and non-jammable data transmission between the UAV and the ground station.
With it’s modular structure, the Barracuda can carry a large variety of sensors, such as electro-optical (EO) and infrared sensors (IR), laser target designators, an Emitter Locator System (ELS) consisting of detectors for picking up radio-magnetic signals and also advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems, which can be integrated on the multisensor principle, being accommodated in the payload bay.
The Barracuda’s structure is made entirely from CFC’s and was manufactured on the basis of a new EADS patent at the company’s Augsburg plant.
EADS will put the Barracuda on display at the Berlin Air Show, which opens on Tuesday May 16.
September 2006 Crash & Future
During its second test flight the unmanned vehicle crashed as it was trying to land at the San Javier Air Force base, in Spain. A software problem was later determined to be the cause.
For a long time it was uncertain if EADS was going to build a new demonstrator. In early September 2007, chief executive of EADS’ Defence & Security division, Stefan Zoller, acknowledged they were not going to. However, a month later details emerged EADS was having discussions with the German Ministry of Defence to build an identical demonstrator vehicle.
“We will rebuild. It willl be the same configuration as the Barracuda I,” says Dr Peter Becher, vice-president autonomous airborne systems for EADS defence & Security.
Becher further detailed that the Barracuda II vechile will be used for the Agile UAV experiments and added they wanted to show that an UAV can be integrated into the command and control structure.