The need for manned and unmanned Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and special mission aircraft has significantly increased in recent times. Despite the remarkable achievements of existing platforms, additional capabilities are necessary to address current operational gaps.
The NightHawk QS3, with its low-acoustic signature is a valuable asset in scenarios where undetected operations are desired. This quiet ISR special mission aircraft offers unparalleled capabilities in the field.
The QS3 can penetrate denied airspace and operate undetected by the enemy at close range, loitering long periods to gather intelligence. It is harder to see, harder to hear, harder to detect by radar, and harder to detect by thermal imaging and night vision than any aircraft now in operation.
The QS3 allows for clear unobstructed outward / downward visibility. It can carry two retractable (EO/IR) gimbals with stabilized long-range telescopic daylight visible and thermal infrared full motion video (FMV) imagers. Low operating altitudes in quiet mode facilitates detailed full facial recognition imagery. With a crew of 3, QS3 supports high-workload missions, by allowing the pilot to focus on quiet flight operations at low altitudes, while two crew members focus on the assigned missions.
The QS3 is capable of carrying and operating equipment packages for direction finding, signals identification & intercept, recording, mapping, and tracking emitters –such as GSM phones to precision geographic locations (PGL). Long endurance provides persistent observation/signal collection from targets. With RF transparent wingtips and vertical tail tip, the 57’ wingspan plus the wingtip-to-tail distance provides opportunities for precision direction-finding of RF sources.
The QS3 can operate undetected directly above an objective, providing aerial support for ground operations, including situational awareness before, during, and after an assault, with ability to downlink overhead imagery to ground forces in real time, and track fleeing enemies undetected. This provides direct air support capabilities, force protection measures for supply routes and forward operating bases, counter ambush measures, and counter IED measures to include find-fix-finish when desired.
The QS3 can carry BLOS transceiver capable of communications satellite link / auto-tracking with ample bandwidth to support transmission of full motion video, can carry up to 750 pounds of signals / communications gear as a signal relay platform, support covert radio/TV broadcast missions and has ample RF windows in fuselage, belly fairings and wingtips, to mount antennae within the aircraft.
The QS3 can operate from friendly bases at long distances from target areas, still have good on-station time for the mission and be able to return to base unrefueled. It can fly 500 miles to a target area, loiter for 10 hours, and return 500 miles on its standard (100 gallon) internal fuel load. Optional external fuel tanks add up to 50% more fuel to significantly extend transit distances and loiter times.
All fuel needed on the QS3 is readily available diesel or jet fuel. The primary engine is an aero-diesel and shares the same fuel as most military vehicles, helicopters, or fixed-wing cargo aircraft. No Avgas needed.
The QS3 supports clandestine parachute insertion of up to three jumpers per aircraft (in the single pilot configuration) at distances up to 800 nautical miles and is able to take-off and land on almost any airfield or road or from an aircraft carrier, to support over the horizon insertion / extraction of personnel and cargo at great distances. This supports the clandestine resupply / rotation of small units, and/or support leaflet drops and other psychological warfare activities over denied areas.
The QS3 design enables it to be rapidly reconfigured in the field environment for multiple mission profiles. There are quick disconnect points running the entire length of the cabin floor to mount seats or other mission equipment. The large cargo door, access panels, cable runways / conduit tubes are built-in to the airframe. Removable wing tips and belly fairings allow for rapid installation and removal of mission equipment.
For example, with a crew of two:
– The QS3 cabin can be reconfigured from an ISR to a MedEvac / CasEvac mission within 15 minutes.
– The QS3 cabin can be reconfigured from an ISR to a cargo mission within 30 minutes.
– The QS3 cabin can be reconfigured from an ISR to a LINEX mission within 30 minutes.
The QS3 can resupply ground teams / friendly forces at great distances via precision airdrop of cargo from very low altitude while remaining undetected and can also carry and operate LINEX equipment to covertly retrieve cargo from the ground without landing.
The QS3 is rapidly deployable via C-17 to support Global Pursuit Missions and is capable of rapid assembly and disassembly. No special tools, cradles, defueling, or mechanics are required. Main fuel tanks are in the wing center section, allowing the removable outer wing panels to remain light and easy to handle.
The QS3 has adequate interior cabin space to support litter and attendant for MedEvac / CasEvac missions at great distances from base, unrefueled. By utilizing the LINEX system, QS3 can covertly support of MedEvac / CasEvac retrieval even where full stop landings are not possible.
QS3 can penetrate hostile areas undetected and perform precision airdrop emplacement of sensors, radio repeaters, or mines and can carry and operate LINEX equipment for precision emplacement of non-hardened sensors without detection.
QS3 has the ability to observe, record and obstruct high-value targets, or designate targets in support of others without being detected by performing forward air controller roles.
The QS3 can carry and operate a 3,000’ long-line insertion extraction (LINEX) system, while remaining in quiet loiter mode. LINEX equipment can extract persons under control, wounded/incapacitated persons, cargo, and friendly forces at great distances from a base. The QS3 has the ability –unrefueled and undetected, to cruise up to 500 miles, observe a location within a denied area at close range, insert a technician by parachute, remain on station and observe the surrounding area while the technician completes mission, then pick up the technician from the ground and return 500 miles.