Weapon Systems

Coyote drone offers full range of capabilities on and off battlefield


Light and expendable, the Coyote unmanned aircraft system can venture into combat zones and disaster areas too dangerous for manned aircraft and can carry out a wide range of tasks.

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A Coyote drone being launched from a US Army vehicle. [RTX]
A Coyote drone being launched from a US Army vehicle. [RTX]

The Coyote unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is a small, expendable drone system developed by RTX (formerly known as Raytheon) with the capacity to fly into environments inaccessible for manned aircraft.

The Coyote is fully capable of conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, as well as electronic warfare, strikes, counter-UAS (C-UAS) warfare, perimeter security, research, disaster assessment and targeting assistance.

The 13-pound (5.9kg) Coyotes, which are 26 inches (66cm) long and have a 58-inch (147cm) wingspan, can fly netted together in swarms or deployed as individual aircraft and are able to operate for more than an hour and up to 50 miles (80.5km) away from their host aircraft.

The system is tube launched and can be deployed from ground, air and naval vessels and is designed for interchangeable payloads of up to 4 pounds (1.8kg).

The Coyote on the tarmac after a successful demonstration flight in 2016. [NOAA]
The Coyote on the tarmac after a successful demonstration flight in 2016. [NOAA]

It can reach speeds of up to 70 knots (129km/h), has a cruising speed of 55 knots (102km/h) and is operational at altitudes of 30,000 feet (9km).

The Coyote was first developed in 2004 by Tucson, Arizona-based manufacturer Advanced Ceramic Research under a contract from the US Office of Naval Research.

After a subsequent purchase and resale by defense technology contractor BAE Systems, RTX acquired Advanced Ceramic Research in 2015 and incorporated it into its own missile system manufacturing branch.

In 2007, it made its first flight from a Beechcraft C-12 Huron turboprop aircraft.

Three years later, in 2010, the Coyote test-flew from a WP-3D Orion hurricane hunter aircraft for an assessment of its utility in tracking hurricanes.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the first time in 2014 deployed the Coyote to track and model the intensity of Hurricane Edouard.

Deployed from an NOAA Orion aircraft, the Coyote collected meteorological data of the hurricane and transmitted them to the researchers in real time.

The NOAA also deployed the Coyote in 2017 to monitor and model Hurricane Maria.

During the test flight, the Coyotes weathered winds of more than 100 miles per hour (160.9km/h), transmitting storm data to the US National Hurricane Center.

On the battlefield

The US Army is looking to employ the Coyote as a near-term C-UAS solution.

The Coyote is equipped with electro-optical and infrared sensors capable of gathering surveillance video and imagery.

It also can carry a proximity warhead -- a fuse that detonates automatically when within a certain distance of its target -- able to destroy an enemy drone.

When it uses its radar frequency seeker, the Coyote is able to identify and eliminate hostile UASs, and can intercept and destroy enemy drones through collisions or targeted explosions.

In July 2021, RTX announced that Coyote Block 3 UAS -- a variant of the original Coyote that uses a non-kinetic warhead to take down enemy drones -- eliminated a hostile swarm of 10 drones in a test conducted by the US Army's Indirect Fires and Rapid Capabilities Office.

The tests, which were conducted in December 2020, "achieved several significant firsts, including air-to-air non-kinetic defeat; survivability, recovery, refurbishment, and reuse during the same test event; a successful launch of the Block 3 from the Coyote Block 2 system [which is already fielded by the army]; and extended-range engagements, communication and KuRFS [Ku-band Radio Frequency System] radar track," RTX said.

The Coyote has drawn interest from US allies seeking C-UAS solutions.

Last November, the US State Department approved a $1 billion sale of the Fixed Site-Low, Slow, Small Unmanned Aircraft System Integrated Defeat System (FS-LIDS) including 200 Coyote Block 2 interceptors as well as Coyote launchers, the anti-drone technology Counter Unmanned Electronic Warfare System (CUAEWS), 360-degree multi-mission radar KuRFS radars and other drone-defense and support technologies.

"The proposed sale will improve Qatar's capability to meet current and future threats by providing electronic and kinetic defeat capabilities against [UASs]," the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.

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