Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 2: Modern UAVs
Copyright © 2004 Andreas Parsch

Alliant Techsystems RQ-6 Outrider

In 1996 the Mi-Tex Hellfox UAV, which had first flown in December 1995, was selected to fulfill a joint U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps TUAV (Tactical UAV) requirement for a short-range battlefield surveillance and target acquisition UAV. In May that year, Alliant Techsystems was awarded an ACTD (Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration) contract to develop the Outrider TUAV system with an air vehicle based on the Hellfox design. However, the Outrider program was troubled from the beginning, and the first flight did only occur in March 1997. The major reason for the delay was the necessity to redesign the fuselage from composite to aluminum construction, after it had turned out that the former design provided insufficient shielding of the avionics in a ship-board EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) environment. Furthermore, the first prototype was over-weight and under-performing, leading to another slight redesign. The final design, which also used a more powerful engine, first flew in November 1997. Test and development somewhat accelerated in 1998, and in April that year the U.S. Army received its first complete Outrider system for training and evaluation. In October 1998 the Navy and Marine Corps left the program because of poor cost and performance data and began to look at a VTOL alternative (which eventually led to the RQ-8 Fire Scout). In early 1999, the Outrider UAV was officially designated as RQ-6A.

Photo: Alliant Techsystems
Outrider (prototype configuration)

The first Outrider prototypes were powered by a McCulloch 4318F piston engine, but the final RQ-6A design used the a UEL AR-801R rotary engine and a slightly longer fuselage. The UAV had a non-retractable tricycle landing gear for conventional take-off and landing, but it was also equipped with a parachute system for recovery in emergencies. The Outrider's distinguishing feature were the tandem wings which are connected by common endplates. This design was selected for its high-lift/low-drag characteristics. The RQ-6A was equipped with a GPS-based navigation system for fully autonomous operation, and two-way datalinks to receive command and control input and transmit sensor data. When the communications link was lost, the UAV returned to base until landing or re-establishment of the link. The initial mission payload of the RQ-6A was an IAI Tamam POP (Plug-In Optronic Payload) IR/EO (Infrared/Electro-Optical) sensor turret for day/night surveillance, but the UAV had provisions to install other payloads as well.

Photo: Alliant Techsystems

The protracted and often disappointing development of the Outrider prompted the U.S. Army to look at alternatives. In 1999, the Army conducted a comparative system capability demonstration between the RQ-6A and the AAI RQ-7A Shadow 200. In the end, the latter proved better suited to fulfill the Army's TUAV requirements and Outrider was finally cancelled in late 1999. A total of 20 Outrider UAVs had been built, 10 of which were of the final RQ-6A design.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for RQ-6A:

Length3.20 m (10 ft 6 in)
Wingspan3.96 m (13 ft 0 in)
Height1.55 m (5 ft 1 in)
Weightmax: > 227 kg (500 lb); empty: 185 kg (410 lb)
Speedmax: 203 km/h (126 mph); cruise: 167 km/h (104 mph)
Ceiling> 4570 m (15000 ft)
Range200 km (108 nm)
Endurance> 7 h
PropulsionUEL AR-801R rotary engine; 31.3 kW (42 hp)

Main Sources

[1] Kenneth Munson (ed.): "Jane's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Targets, Issue 15", Jane's, 2000
[2] Tom Kaminski: "The Future is Here", article in Combat Aircraft Vol. 4, No. 6, 2003

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 2

Last Updated: 20 April 2004