Updated 6:02 PM EDT, Wed, Apr 01, 2020

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Over 100 US Navy Warships to become Aircraft Carriers with Deployment of TERN Aerial Drone


(Photo : US Navy) TERN taking off (illustration).

The decision to arm a new vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aerial drone initially intended for reconnaissance will add over 100 more "aircraft carriers" to the U.S. Navy surface fleet.

More important, this unmanned aerial system (UAS) named TERN (Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node) can carry its smart bombs much farther than the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets, which are the navy's primary strike aircraft.

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TERN is a joint program between the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR).

The TERN program developing this drone seeks to greatly increase the effectiveness of forward-deployed small-deck ships such as destroyers and frigates by enabling them to serve as mobile launch and recovery sites for specially designed UASs.

The navy said it has over 100 small-deck ships whose helicopter landing pads can accommodate TERN. Arming this UAS with a 400 kg bomb load directly supports the navy's new fighting concept called "distributed lethality" that seeks to transform smaller ships into lethal aircraft carriers.

TERN will have a combat radius of 1,000 km as against the Super Hornet's 900 km. The manned fighters, however, can carry up to 6,000 kg of weapons as against TERN's 400 kg.

Currently under development, TERN is described as a "tailsitting," flying-wing aircraft powered by two, 10 feet-long contra-rotating, nose-mounted propellers. This drone is triangular in shape and measures 40 feet on a side.

Transforming practically all Navy warships into mini-aircraft carriers will largely invalidate China's and Russia's anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategies by saturating their defenses with missile-armed aerial drones and kamikaze drones to be launched from different classes of navy ships.

TERN will initially be designed for reconnaissance missions but will ultimately be turned into a weapons system carrying the Navy's full range of air-to-ground missiles and guided bombs.

A video of TERN can be viewed here.

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