L-3 Upgrades Viking Expeditionary UAS

L-3 Unmanned Systems of Dallas has completed a series of capability enhancements to its Viking 400 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) supplied to the U.S. Special Operations Command under a 2009 contract. Added under the Block 1A upgrade are a new electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor turret and digital datalink.

The MX-10 turret is the newest EO/IR sensor package in the MX series of turrets produced by L-3 Wescam of Burlington, Ontario. The 10-inch-diameter gimbaled enclosure contains a high-resolution IR imager, color EO sensor, laser rangefinder and dual divergence laser illuminator. The turret includes a built-in precision GPS navigation system and multi-mode automatic video tracker.

The company said it has successfully tested an advanced, secure digital datalink system produced by L-3 Communications Systems-West, of Salt Lake City, in conjunction with the upgrade.

L-3 in October 2009 announced a contract valued at $250 million over five years to provide the Viking 400 for Socom’s Expeditionary UAS program. With a maximum gross takeoff weight of 540 pounds, Viking is the mid-tier system of three UAS the company introduced that year, including the tube-launched Cutlass small expendable vehicle and Mobius medium-altitude, long-endurance, optionally piloted aircraft.

The composite-construction Viking 400 is integrated with an L-3 Unmanned Systems’ FlightTEK autonomous takeoff and landing system. Missions are flown using GPS waypoints, which can be reassigned during flight, the company says. The operational and line-of-sight datalink range of the platform is up to 70 miles, with endurance of eight to 12 hours depending on payload weight. L-3 declined comment on the Expeditionary UAS program beyond the upgrade release.