Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Northrop Grumman reveals new hybrid stealth drone

U.S. Defense giant Northrop Grumman has provided the first definitive photo of its Series Hybrid Electric Propulsion AiRcraft Demonstration (SHEPARD) drone, also known as XRQ-73.

The uncrewed air system developed for DARPA recently received its official X-plane designation of XRQ-73.

Built in collaboration with Scaled Composites, a Northrop Grumman subsidiary, the XRQ-73 SHEPARD is a DARPA “X-prime” program leveraging hybrid electric architecture and component technologies to quickly mature a new mission-focused aircraft design with propulsion architecture and power class for the Department of Defense.

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“The idea behind a DARPA X-prime program is to take emerging technologies and burn down system-level integration risks to quickly mature a new missionized long endurance aircraft design that can be fielded quickly,” said Steve Komadina, SHEPARD program manager. “The SHEPARD program is maturing a specific propulsion architecture and power class as an exemplar of potential benefits for the Department of Defense.”

The DARPA team includes members from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and our warfighters.

The prime contractor for SHEPARD is Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Aeronautics Systems sector in Redondo Beach, CA. Scaled Composites, LLC is a major supplier, along with Cornerstone Research Group, Inc., Brayton Energy, LLC, PC Krause and Associates, and EaglePicher Technologies, LLC.

The XRQ-73 aircraft will be a Group 3 UAS weighing approximately 1,250 pounds. First flight of the XRQ-73 is expected by year-end 2024.

SHEPARD is an “X-prime” program, leveraging the series hybrid electric architecture and some of the component technologies from the earlier AFRL/IARPA Great Horned Owl (GHO) project.

The hybrid-electric propulsion system aims to provide a more efficient, longer-endurance flight capability. The integration of stealth features and advanced avionics is designed to make the XRQ-73 a versatile asset for a range of defense applications.

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Executive Editor

About author:

Colton Jones
Colton Jones
Colton Jones is the deputy editor of Defence Blog. He is a US-based journalist, writer and publisher who specializes in the defense industry in North America and Europe. He has written about emerging technology in military magazines and elsewhere. He is a former Air Force airmen and served at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

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