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Demonstrating its growing partnership with the Naval Postgraduate School, Naval Air Systems Command's Specialized and Proven Aircraft Program Office (PMA-226) supported the institution's "first flight" of a Sentry Unmanned Aerial Vehicle on Oct. 19.

Under a new agreement with NPS, PMA-226 manages nine Block 20 and five newer Block 30 Sentry UAVs, expanding the organization's portfolio beyond manned aircraft.

"The Sentry UAV flight represents a new era for PMA-226," said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Walsh, the program manager for the organization formerly known as the H-46/T58 Program Office. "For more than 20 years, PMA-226 built its reputation for sustaining the H-46/T58 platform. Now, we're broadening our focus to include programs like the NPS aircraft."

After undergoing a mission and name change nearly a year ago, PMA-226, which is headquartered in Cherry Point, N.C., continues supporting the Marine Corps' H-46; oversees several aircraft at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School as well as NPS' Sentry UAVs; and manages Foreign Military Sales cases for out-of-U.S. Navy inventory aircraft, such as the H-2 and H-3.

The research-oriented Sentry could boost UAV support to the warfighter, and has become a valuable learning tool for NPS students, said Bob Bluth, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Remotely Piloted Aircraft Studies, or CIRPAS, at NPS.

"The postgraduate students at the school are using the Sentry UAVs as an operational asset where they can apply their thesis work and perhaps uncover a novel way of using a UAV that has not been done in the past," Bluth said.

Accommodating various payloads up to 75 pounds and with an endurance of six plus hours, the Sentry UAV provides increased performance, reliability and payload capability while maintaining an expeditionary footprint. The UAV can accommodate a full spectrum of various payloads for military and civilian applications at the postgraduate school. CIRPAS is dedicated to operating instrumented research aircraft in support of the science community and military technology test, evaluation and demonstration.

"A vehicle like the Sentry allows you to carry a substantial payload," Bluth said. "It allows a substantial amount of time in the air, giving the flexibility of testing things out without the cost associated with other platforms."