On 18 May 2020, Soldiers of the famed 101st Airborne division, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team began their introduction to the Martin UAV V-BAT. Teamed with Northrop Grumman on the Army program, Martin UAV’s V-BAT is the unique VTOL ducted fan UAS selected by the Army as one of the key technologies to help shape the requirements for the service’s Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial System (FTUAS). The goal of the FTUAS is to evaluate runway and launcher independent VTOL systems that can accomplish more expeditionary missions and eventually, replace the venerable RQ-7 Shadow.
The V-BAT is the 2nd system in the initial FTUAS phase and is uniquely suited for evaluation by the storied 101 Airborne Division (Air Assault). The Screaming Eagles are the first unit to train on the wholly unique tail-sitter using a ducted fan pusher configuration. All other competitors use the L-3 patented Latitude technology battery-operated quadcopter kit and a separate pusher or tractor configuration that add a level of complexity that V-BAT does not.
Heath Niemi, Martin UAV’s Vice President of Global Sales and Development, emphasized that “we are excited to be evaluated by this premier expeditionary light infantry unit. We think these soldiers will appreciate operational simplicity and high mobility of the true VTOL V-BAT. The V-BAT weighs in at 88 pounds (combat load), has a wingspan of 9 feet and exceptional endurance. We purpose-built a very safe, truly tactical system that a 2-Soldier team can launch and recover while standing inches away. A lightweight system transportable not just in helicopters, but also in small tactical vehicles, and clearly one of the best in class from the box launch sequence.
Niemi continued, “As a small and rapidly growing company we are moving very quickly in a number of directions. In the last 7 months, we have completed over 1,300 incident free hours at sea with “best in class” mission readiness rates. We are working with the Navy, Marine Corps, and SOCOM to enhance the V-BAT for a number of missions. We are proceeding with a technology roadmap that more than doubles our payload capacity and our endurance within a year.” Additionally, our international customers recognized the value of the V-BAT. International direct commercial sales and several pending opportunities, to include FMS, will be a big plus for us.”
The Army and the UAS Project Office is proactive in keeping this all on-schedule even with the recent COVID-19 delays. The units have developed smart and safe procedures for dealing with COVID-19 precautions. The Martin UAV and Northrop Grumman team is excited about getting started and receiving feedback from the warfighters.