The EADS Barracuda is an European unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) currently under development by EADS, intended for the role of reconnaissance and also combat (UCAV).The aircraft is a joint venture between Germany and Spain.
Development of the project was stopped after the first prototype crashed at sea while approaching for landing during a test flight. The program was resumed in 2008, with a second prototype being completed in November 2008. The rebuilt Barracuda underwent a series of successful flight tests in Goose Bay, Canada during July 2009, followed by further flight campaigns in 2010 and 2012.
The Barracuda is primarily in competition with the Dassault nEUROn for strategic and defensive contracts. Both are stealthy and have a maximum air speed of around Mach 0.85 . While Germany and Spain are behind the Barracuda, France, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Greece and Spain, are funding the nEUROn. Not much is known about the Barracuda as it is still in development. However the Barracuda is thought to have an operating ceiling of around 20,000 ft and carries a maximum payload of 300 kg.
The Barracuda originated as a UAV design study, intended to push EADS into the market for medium-altitude long-range UAVs, a market they view as dominated by the United States and Israel. Its official debut was at the 2006 International Aerospace Exhibition, where military applications and specifications for the Barracuda were revealed. EADS’ current focus is to get the Barracuda certified for unregulated flight in Germany’s designated airspace, while the long-term goal is to have it certified for non-segregated airspace.
They also plan to develop the Barracuda as a modular platform, so that it can be refitted for various roles like maritime patrol. Offensive capabilities are not planned, but it may be refitted to carry weapons if customers express interest for it. The Barracuda may also be capable of carrying weapon systems. The systems would be installed in the central payload bay.
Germany is also discussing a partnership with Sweden and Italy for a multinational unmanned aerial vehicle effort in order to compete with the French-led Dassault nEUROn programme. Italy and Sweden are already participants in the French-led effort.
The Barracuda’s maiden flight took place in April, 2006 at a remote location on the Iberian Peninsula. The flight was a success but the prototype crashed into the water during a test flight just off the Spanish coast on September 23, 2006.
The Barracuda is based on commercially available ‘off the shelf’ components, but also many refined systems. Its fuselage is constructed entirely from carbon fibre which is very flexible but also tough and a great choice for today’s aircraft construction material (the structure of The Eurofighter Typhoon is also made significantly out of it). The only significant metal component is the wing spar, running through the middle and reinforcing the wings. The wing spar allows for easy removal of the wings for transportation.
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