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Breaking Barriers: The Evolution & Impact of Shadow® TUAS

April 18, 2024
Improved Shadow® Tactical Unmanned Aircraft

Shadow TUAS timeline of milestones

For more than two decades, the Shadow Tactical Uncrewed Aircraft System (TUAS) has been a vital asset for the U.S. Army, providing valuable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities on the battlefield. Since its inception, Shadow TUAS has built a legacy with the U.S. Army’s Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), Combat Aviation Brigades, Special Forces Groups and the National Guard, providing years of impactful service for military operations from 1999-2024.

In 1999, the U.S. Army hosted a 5-day Systems Capability Demonstration, during which the Shadow TUAS was able to complete the demonstration with just one aircraft. The U.S. Army selected AAI, now Textron Systems, for the Program of Record award following that competitive fly-off and the demonstrated success of the RQ-7 Shadow. This milestone represented a major step forward in developing cutting-edge technology that would enhance the Army's ability to collect real-time information and support troops on the ground. The first systems were delivered to the customer by the following year, in 2001, and the system achieved full rate production approval in 2002.

Less than a decade later, Shadow TUAS had proven its impact. The RQ-7A Shadow 200 Air Vehicle 1026 was donated to the National Air and Space Museum in 2008, where it remains today. This Shadow flew its first mission in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This gesture highlighted the importance of the Shadow TUAS in military history and its impact on aviation technology.

In 2014, the RQ-7B V2 Block 1 Shadow TUAS was introduced to the BCTs. The improvement to the aircraft, showcased the continued commitment to innovation and improvement within the Shadow TUAS program. It also enabled the Army’s family of UAS to perform the first manned-unmanned teaming with the Apache in 2014, resulting in new operational concepts for the Army. This exercise ensured the success of the Army’s family of UAS and their components in conducting manned-unmanned teaming.

The Shadow TUAS reached the impressive milestone of one million flight hours in 2016. Today, the system has more than 1.3 million flight hours and over 300,000 sorties – with more than 80% of those flight hours accrued in combat. The Shadow TUAS has been utilized by various DoD military forces and our international allies. Day or night, Shadow TUAS was flying somewhere in the world, providing eyes over the battlefield to keep Soldiers out of harm’s way.

Most recently, the RQ-7B V2 Block III Shadow TUAS system was introduced in 2021, which brought enhanced situational awareness and system improvements, including both reduced acoustic signature and increased engine power. The system upgrades were based on soldier feedback, which allowed users to utilize the system in dynamic ways.

Throughout its history, the Shadow TUAS has achieved significant milestones, delivering crucial intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities to troops on the ground. The system has successfully provided coverage to our Soldiers and our allies through three theaters of war over its 20 years of service. For the lives Shadow TUAS has saved and the significant contributions it has made to the U.S. Army and the UAS industry, we are #SalutingShadow, today and for decades to come.