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With progress made with the fabrication of the first flight demonstrator of the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) program DARPA has funded a second TERN technology demonstrator. Since DARPA awarded Phase 3 of the TERN program to a team led by the Northrop Grumman Corporation, the program made significant advances on numerous fronts. Milestones included commencement of wing fabrication, completion of successful engine testing for its test vehicle and progress with the system integration. “DARPA has been thinking about building a second TERN test vehicle for well over a year,” said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager. “Adding the second technology demonstrator enhances the robustness of the flight demonstration program and enables military partners to work with us on maturation, including testing different payloads and experimenting with different approaches to operational usage.” According to the agency, TERN is making substantial progress toward scheduled 2018 flight tests of prototype unmanned air system for small-deck ships.
Tern is currently scheduled to start integrated propulsion system testing in the first part of 2017, move to ground-based testing in early 2018, and culminate in a series of at-sea flight tests in late 2018. Wind tunnel tests of a sub-scale model are underway at the 80’ x 120’ wind tunnel at the NASA Ames Research Center’s National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC). Data collected during this test will be used to better characterize aircraft aerodynamic performance and validate aerodynamic models.