Canadian-based start-up, Icarus Aerospace, has unveiled its Tactical Air Vehicle – an optionally-piloted, customisable, multi-role force multiplying solution for the world’s military and security forces community.
The Tactical Air Vehicle (TAV) is powered by two turboprop engines and features a twin-boom tail, high-wing design and tandem-seat cockpit configuration. Although it shares visual design similarities to North American-Rockwell’s OV-10 Bronco – the TAV is very different. It is twice the size of the Vietnam War-era light attack aircraft and the technology planned with it makes it vastly more superior.
Marko Ivankovic, senior product development manager and flight test engineer at Icarus Aerospace, said: “We’ve developed TAV to be in alignment with [the] latest international military armed overwatch and persistent presence requirements and challenges. The aircraft platform defines a niche of its own and excels in addressing all existing and future daily threats facing our troops, security forces and our world.
“We are now moving TAV into its next stage of development, to ensure that Icarus Aerospace has the financial resources to bring our exciting new [programme] to fruition,” he added.
The platform has been designed from the outset to be optionally-piloted, meaning it can be flown both manned and unmanned a variety of missions. Much like the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II family, the TAV will feature sensor fusion and networking capabilities, enabling the aircraft to better integrate and coordinate with allied air, ground and naval forces in the combat zone. It is also capable of being refuelled in flight, with its inclusion of an air-to-air refuelling probe.
In a press release, Icarus said: “TAV can [utilise] its innovative software, avionics and systems to meet a wide variety or mission requirements… with crew, remotely piloted or as a fully autonomous system.”
Icarus’ TAV is a baseline configuration for a family of multi-role, force multiplier aircraft. This includes a multi-mission variant, known as the Wasp, and a high-altitude, long-endurance version called Branta. All three configurations are optionally-manned and feature the same sensor fusion and networking capabilities.
Tactical Air Vehicle (TAV)
The TAV is the first in this family of technologically advanced multi-mission aircraft. This version features the baseline configuration from which the Wasp and Branta variants are based. Customers will also be able to customise the TAV to suit their own specific operational needs.
Icarus describes the TAV as an affordable, all-weather, day or night ‘plug and play’ solution, stating that its aircraft has the ability to replace and outperform “ageing and near obsolete fleets of more expensive helicopters, aircraft and drones.”
It has been designed as a short take-off and landing aircraft, which is able to operate in austere environments from gravel and rough, unprepared runways. Both the TAV and Wasp variants are also self-deployable.
The platform is integrated with a number of mission systems, weapons systems and modern avionics. It is also equipped with a 360° active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, providing enhanced situational awareness and tactical capabilities. Alongside this, both variants can be equipped with two forward-looking infrared (FLIR) turrets, which are retractable and can be placed on the chin and belly of the aircraft. The company adds that the TAV has been designed to be highly reliable, while remain relatively simple to maintain.
It has a planned payload of 8,000lb (3,628kg), which can be spread across 11 external hardpoints. Icarus offers a number of munitions and armaments that can be integrated into the TAV and Wasp platforms, which are optional and can be customised as per customer needs. The platform can be equipped with a single forward firing fixed cannon or a belly-mounted 360° turret cannon, which can be up to 30mm in calibre. It can also employ laser-guided bombs and rockets, GPS-guided weapons, sonobuoys, anti-ship rockets, conventional unguided munitions, air-to-air infrared missiles and up to two torpedoes.
The TAV and the Wasp have a 51ft (15.5m) wingspan and are 52ft (15.9m) long. Both are powered by two 1,700shp (shaft horsepower) turboprop engines, allowing for a maximum speed of 414mph (668km/h). The platforms will have a service ceiling of 36,000ft (10,972m) when manned and when operating unmanned, the altitude limits become more defined by the specifications of the mission/equipment.
Using their internal fuel tanks, both variants have an unrefuelled endurance of six and a half hours, allowing them to operate at ranges of up to 1,496 miles (2,408km). When equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks, the platforms boast an unrefuelled endurance of nine hours and can operate at ranges of 2,302 miles (3,704km). Icarus adds that the endurance of the platform when air-to-air refuelling is an option is up to the crew’s limit.
Described as the fully militarised variant of the TAV by Icarus, the Wasp is specifically-designed to conduct armed overwatch, persistent presence and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
The company states that, when configured for air-to-ground missions, the Wasp is able to perform armed aerial scout (AAS), close air support (CAS), counterinsurgency (COIN), forward air control (FAC) and re-arm and resupply tasks. It can also support special forces missions, combat search and rescue (CSAR), medical evacuation (medevac), city protection and border patrol operations.
In a maritime setting, the variant can carry out armed coastal and maritime patrol missions, along with anti-piracy and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations. When configured for an ISR role, the Wasp can be outfitted to carry out electronic warfare (EW), signals intelligence (SIGINT), battlefield management and communications/intelligence (COM/INTEL) relay tasks.
Icarus adds that the Wasp is fully network-centric and swarm capable, suggesting that it can either be operated as part of a group of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or it can be used as a platform for controlling a flight of autonomous swarming aircraft.
Icarus’ Branta – which is named after the Branta Canadensis or Canada Goose – is distinctively different than the TAV and Wasp to cater for its high-altitude, long endurance mission. Its wingspan is almost double that of the other two versions, measuring in at 98ft (30m). The aircraft is the same length as its sister platforms.
The Branta is described by Icarus as an optionally-piloted unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) that is designed “as a logical step in evolution of modern drones and reconnaissance aircraft with further growth in mind” and will be able to counter high-altitude UAS platforms and reconnaissance aircraft. The type itself is also able to conduct an ISR role at such altitudes.
The platform features the same armament capabilities, powerplant, avionics and radar/FLIR turret suites as the TAV and Wasp, but it can also accommodate a variety of other mission systems to suit specific operator needs. It can also be operated in the same austere environments as its counterparts and has sensor fusion, networking and swarming capabilities. When operating unmanned, the Branta’s cockpit provisions can be removed to allow for extra space inside the aircraft.
The main differences – apart from the wingspan – come in the type’s performance. It is slower than the TAV/Wasp, having a maximum speed of 380mph (611km/h), but has a manned service ceiling of 50,000ft (15,240m). According to Icarus, the platform has an unrefuelled endurance of up to 30 hours and when air-to-air refuelling is available, its endurance becomes more dictated by crew limits, as with the TAV and Wasp. It also has the ability to conduct manual or automated aerial refuelling (AAR), which enables the refuelling of unmanned aircraft.