Undergraduate Individual Aircraft Design Competition
Uninhabited Long Range Strike Combat Vehicle
Design provisions for the flight crew of combat aircraft place many constraints on the vehicle and its performance. Numerous cost and weight penalties are associated with systems that are necessitated only or largely by the presence of a human pilot including displays, switches, g-seats, g-suits, oxygen, pressurization, and other environmental control systems. The aircraft’s maneuver capabilities are limited by the pilot’s physiological limits such as g tolerance, susceptibility to disorientation, or even physical endurance. With pilots onboard, all aspects of the aircraft design process are strongly impacted. The aircraft size, shape, and configuration arrangement are affected.
Providing adequate visibility leads to constrained forebodies and large canopies that increase the aircraft’s drag signature. The design of the aircraft is strongly influenced by human-related issues such as safety factors, redundancy levels, failure modes, and vulnerability. Most of the useful life of today’s combat aircraft is devoted to training and proficiency flying, thus requiring longer design lives than would be needed to meet combat requirements.
Removing the constraints imposed by the pilot could lead to revolutionary design approaches and should allow for dramatic new vehicle concepts. One class of vehicle that is of particular interest is Uninhabited Combat Air Vehicles (UCAV), of which this RFP is an example. The UCAV can be designed specifically for combat rather than primarily for proficiency flying. This would allow the vehicle to be optimized to do a specific mission and would enable it to complete radical new maneuvers impossible or even unimaginable with a pilot in the vehicle. The design approach for UCAVs would focus on designing a vehicle with a shorter operational life and with lower factors of safety and lower levels of redundancy than piloted aircraft. These new design approaches and aircraft concepts should provide dramatic improvements in performance such as reduced observables and drag and increased range, speed, payload, maneuverability, and survivability. These vehicles should be lighter, smaller, and less expensive than current or future piloted aircraft and as a consequence are a possible solution to an overwhelming issue for the military – the affordability of future weapon systems.