USCM Tech: UD-4L “Cheyenne” Utility Dropship

The UD-4L “Cheyenne” Utility Dropship is a
creation of James Cameron’s Aliens, with 2 different dropships playing integral roles
in the film’s plot. The first being the dropship unofficially designated “Bug Stomper,” piloted
by Ferro and Spunkeyer, which originally brings the marines to the colony on LV-426. After
their encounter with the aliens in the hive, Hicks requests immediate evac, but “Bug Stomper”
is unable to follow through on this mission when a stowaway xenomorph kills the unsuspecting
pilots, causing the ship to crash, along with its plentiful armaments, wasting the APC in
the process, damaging the atmospheric processor’s cooling system, and ultimately leaving the
survivors stranded with little weaponry. The second dropship, “Smart ASS” (also an unofficial
designation), is piloted remotely then manually by Bishop, in order to escape the site before
the processor went critical. Smart Ass was successful in bringing Ripley, Newt, Hicks,
and Bishop to safety, but it was on this dropship that the Alien Queen hitched a ride, appearing
in the hangar bay in a last ditch effort to avenge her fallen hive. True to the style of almost all of what we
see in the world of Aliens, Cameron and Company put painstaking detail into the creation of
this vehicle. The Colonial Marines Tech manual outlines a great deal of specifics that were
considered in its realization, as well as further defining its purpose within the corps. The UD-4L “Cheyenne” is a versatile dropship
and tactical transport employed in a primary role in the US Colonial Marine Corps. The
UD-4 has evolved into the definitive dropship design, influencing the shape of many deriviatives
and successors. The Cheyenne’s unique flexibility comes from
its ability to lift itself into orbit under its own power from unprepared landing sites
with the aid of its vertical take-off (VTOL) capability. In addition to carrying its large
payload, the Cheyanne can operate in the close-support gunship frole by deploying weapons pods and
hardpoints for rockets and missiles, as well as using its own internal.
The UD-4’s lifting-body airframe is built around its 103.6 cubic meter internal payload
bay, flanked to the sides and aft by the tri-skid undercarriage. Forward of the payload space
is the cockpit and the mounts for the lift engines. Aft of the space is a raised tail
assembly which mounts the ramrocket engines and control surfaces.
The principle frame is constructed from the superplastic-formed diffusion-bonded metal
matrix composites (MMC). These light, oxidation-resistant MMC structrual members are formed from high-modulus,
high-strength gold and chrome doped zirconium oxide reinforces fivers in a titanium aluminide
matrix. They form a structural web running the length of the fuselage, encompossing the
payload volume. Spars and members attached to the main frame are constructed from titanium
aluminide MMC and refractive composities with titanium root fittings to transfer bending
moments to the structurcal web. The fuselage skinning comprises tr-layer plates attached
to the titanium aluminide frame. The inside layer is a carbon-carbon composite (graphite
fibers in a carbon matrix) bonded to a middle layer of single-crystal carbo. This crsytal
carbon later will not melt on the re-entry and can effectively conduct excess heat away
from the leading-edge surfaces. A thin ceramic outer layer provides thermal and oxidation
protection in the high altitude, high speed realm. The payload bay is a 9.5 l x 4.5 w x 2.4 h
meter (102.6 cubic meters) volue with a 3.92 meter wide deck ramp suspended from four dual-hydraulic
assemblies. The deck ramp can confortably carry a fully-crewed M577 APC (with turret
stowed) or a HALOS stores pallet, and is able to raise the cargo completely into the payload
space from the grond level. Within the bay, detent lataches are automatically activiated,
extending to hold cargoes in place when the deck is raised.
Aft of the payload bay, a step gantry can be lowered to the port side to allow crew
access. Forward of the bay, a small volume accomodates three seats for passengers and
additional crew. To either side of the forward payload space,
the structural web extends outwards to form the static load points for the undercarriage,
the fuel tank volume and the mounths for the secondary weapon bats. Aft of the payload
space is the huge rar skid strut and the fuel tankage for the ram rockets. The UD4 undercarriage
is a tri-skid arrangement in which the skids retract flush with the underside of the fuselage.
The ramrocket engines are mounted above the main fusealge module, their intakes accepting
the airflow across the upper fuselage. The aft fuselage assembly occupies the space between
the engines and extends reward to the butterfly control surfaces. This volume contains the
Fire Control Hamming Suite towed unit and the oxidant tankes fro ramrocket operation
during exoatmospheric flight. With their associated cryogenic storage equpiment. Just aft of the
main engine nozzles are a pair of flush fitted extending airbrake panels which can also be
deployed during reentry for transonic and hypersonic stability. The butterfly control
surfaces are designed to provide control authority in all axes at all speed regimes. They also
supply tail life at low speeds when the dynamic pressure on the underside of the dropship
lifting body drops and shifts the static center of the lift forwards. ————– The spacious pressurixed cockpit is accessed
from the payload bay and features two crew positions, seated in tandem. Both crew sit
in Matrin-Siekert R2101 zero-zero ejection seats which are cleared for operation at any
altitude below 10,000m and speeds below mach 1. In the event of an emergency, explosive
cord blow the canopy off and the crew are ejected clear of the shio.
The main fuselage also features the mounting points for the main weapons pods and the secondary
weapons bay. The main weapons pods are attached to cross-folded pylons just forward of the
ramrocket intakes, which in supersonic flight are stowed flush against the fuselage sides
and the rear of the secondary bays. At subsonic speeds, the 4.4 m pylons can be deployed crosswise
to expose the ordanance within the pods. The total span of the pods when deployed is 15.3
m. The pods cannot be deployed at speeds above transonic because of the adverse effects of
drag and the torsion caused by dynamic pressure on the pylones. The secondary bays also fold
flush against the sides of the lifting body, and can be swung out to expose all the weapon
hardpoints and allow exhaust space for weapons launch.
Survivability featues high on the list of UD-4 featues. The airframe has proven crashworthy
at low speeds and altitudes. A sandwich of Blar ballistic armor layers protect the cockpit,
fuel tanks and tamrocket cowlings from light ground fire or spent missile fragmentation
and the ceramic outer skin later has limited ablative properties against pulsed lasers.
. Though not designed to slug it out with ground or space defenses, experience has proven
the Cheyanne to be exceptionally rugged, capable of withstanding considerable punishment while
still remaining airborne. However, it must be noted that even light
damage can prevent a dropship from lifting into orbit. A breach of the fuselage skin
will seriously compromise the ship’s highspeed thermal protection, and even a tiny hole can
cause oxidation or ‘burn through’ when atmospheric speeds exceeds m5.-. To prevent such accidents,
a sensor net is bonded to the inside of the skinning to monitor for breaches, a different
hull termpature and ionization. IF a breach is detected, a warnning is flashed to the
cockput monitor to notify the crew. The manual goes on to explain Flight and Stealth
characteristics of the Cheyenne, as well as its avionic, sensor, and defensive systems. As far as is possible, the fuselage has integrated
low observable characteristics including rounded ledding surfaces, shielded compressor intakes,
and a butterfly tail. Much of the composite skinning is radar absorbent and from the forward
quarter the Cheyenne has a radar cross-section (RCS) of less than 1.3m, while from the front,
where the engine intakes are fully visible. RCS increases to around 2.5m. However, despite
the attention paid to keeping RCS low, values for the beam and stern aspecs are much greater,
in some cases exceeding 50m. In the infared, the Cheyenne is far easier
to detect. Airframe heating is almost impossible to digusing at ranges under 10km, and if the
dropship has just completed a transatmospheric ascent or descent the detection radius can
be 30km or more in clear skies. Cold air blowers are intalled in the side-bleed nozzles and
the nose exhaust to reduce the infrared signature from the lift engines.
A variety of laser-absorbent skin coatings probide some defense against lidar and laser-targetting
systems by attentuating the reflected strength of the beams. Even against coded beams this
can cause range or profiling errors. However, because the coatings tend to be frequency-specific,
they only provide coverage against a limited number of systems. The Cheyenne has a crew of two, comprising
a Pilot and a Crew Chief/Weapons officer. Flight control is quadruplex digital fly-by-light
with automatic self-monitoring and reversion to back-up modes, all handled through the
flight computer. Ther is no manual reversion since the dropship is too unstable to be flown
with direct control inputs. Engine thrust and nozzle setting are automatically moved
to their optimum positions depending on speed, altitutde, throttle and stick settings. An
intelligent autopilot facility allows the automatics to fly all phases of the mission
profile, including ingress and egress to the target zone as well as landing and docking
cycles. The intrumentation and control layout is basically
convential, with a right-hand dispalcement-type control stick and left-hand throttles. About
twenty fingertip controls on these handles give hand-on-throttles-and-stick control of
sensors, weapons, defense-aids, etc. The avionics system is designed to facilitate
maximum cockpit efficiency, the semi-intelligent software registering all flight information
as required on the pilot’s wide[angle, heads-up dispay, and the three integrated Lorac multi-function
displays. These displays provide sensor-fusion presentations, map displays, armament status
diagrams, checklists, etc. The pilot’s workload is reduced by a direct
voice inout system, which may be employed for data entry, the selection of communication
channels, and operate modes for the MFDs, as well as weapons selection.
Navigation combines and intertial system with ring laser gyros and strapdown accelerometers,
backed up by Global Positioning from references satellites where available.
Raw sensor information from all sources is collated and processed by the Integrated Flight
Tactical Data System (IFTDS), which largely handles flight related data and routes all
tactically information through to two major sub-processors, both of which are integrated
with the offensive and defensive systems. The first is the Advances Threat and Launch
Indication System – ATLIS, which is designed to detect and identifiy threates to the dropship
and then direct the defensive countermeasures systems against them. The second is Target
Identification and Acquisition System – TIAS, which processes battlefield target data and
provides and interface between the crew and fire control systems. ATLIS is a powerful logic driver designed
to evaluate threates from enemy aerospace craft, ant-aircraft artillery, and surface
to air missiles, and compile a composite picture of the threat environment around the dropship.
The picture is fed to the cokpit displays in the form of tactical displays, warnings,
and menus of defensive option to meet any actual or potential threats. The Missile Defense System is a point defense
system employed against incoming missiles in their terminal phase, usually within 1500
meters. The AAS-162 lidar acquires a missle then strobes a beam across its nose. This
system is capable of dazzling a missile’s optical/infafred seeker, or feeding false
range information to its laser fusing system. Nauturally, the MDS is ineffective against
radar or jam-homing weapons not equiooed wiith laser fusing. Fire control for the dropship can be accessed
by either the pilot or weapons officer, however, most of the weapons workload is handled by
the back-seater. When not in combat, the weapons officer usually works “heads down” in the
cokpit, monitoring the tactical data output from ATLIS and TIAS. In practices, the weapons
officer has responsibility for all targets in the tactical zone, though the pilot can
engage targets immediately in front of the ship, and handles all the pint and shoot attacks,
such as with the rockets. The fire control systems can either fire weapons
automatically, as soon the target is within an optimum attack parameter, or can provide
a firing indication for manual attacks. In the case of some unguided or unintelligent
weapons, TIAS will command the fire control system to set the weapon fusing at the moment
of launch according to the target type, and adjusts the aimpoint accordingly.
The “L” Variant tactical transport carries a wide array of powerful weaponry that can
be used in dedicated support of its troop complement. Two main weapons bays fold out
on extended pylons to deploy weapon hardpoints capable of carrying 16 x 150 mm unguided rockets,
6 x 70 mm un guided rockets and 4 x 120 mm guided rockets each. Two secondary bays on
the port and starboard side of the fuselage house a further 14 hardpoints for air to air
and surface to surface missiles. The dropship also mounts a dedicated 25 mm
gatling gun in a powered cupola beneath the nose. The GAU-113B is a six barrel weapon
driven by pneumatic motor turned by the engines at 6,000 rounds per minute and geared down
to the rear of the gun. Rounds are caseless, and do not carry their own propellent. Instead,
the GAU-113 system uses hyperholic liquid fuels, stored and loaded separately, as a
binary propellant. When fed into the chamber via spray nozzles, they react simulatneous
to explode and propel the shell. Ammunition comprises a mix of armor piercing indendiary,
armor pierding discarding sabot and high explosive incediary, and is fed from a 900 round drum
beneath the cockpit. In the colonial marines, the UD-4 is emploed
as an integrated member of the aerospace/ground tactical team, having the capability to deploy
troops and its own dedicated firepower direct from orbit to the operational area. Typical
pay-loads into an operation landing zone may include up to four fully euipped infrantry
squads or one M577 APC. The Cheyenne also has the capacity to carry up to 16,000 kg
of stores. Typical mission profiles include Assault Transport, CasEvac, Search and Rescue,
Forward Supply, Close Air Support and REconnaisance. The UD-4’s flexiblity as a transport nd weapons
platform has made it a ubiquitous workhorse within the corps. As explored previously on the channel, in
the video Aliens and the Vietnam War, James Cameron and company drew heavy inspiration
for the Dropship from 1960s Vietnam Era aircraft, creating a vehicle that combines timeless
and futuristic elements. While we’ve only seen the dropship play a part in one film
in the series, it’s remained an iconic and instantly recognizable element within the
extended universe. The dropship has made appearances ranging from semi-cameos to large parts within
the plots over a span of many comic books and novels within the extended universe, showing
up as far timeline-wise within post-Alien Resurrection continuity with Alien: Sea of
Sorrows. It’s also featured in a great many video games related to the Alien franchise
– a dropship bay commonly being a popular map we’ve seen used in games over the years.
Do you think we’ll ever see it appear again in another movie? Would that be something
you’d like to see? Comment below and let me know how you feel about the Alien series flying
the friendly skies with the Cheyenne once again. As always, I’d like to Thank you very much
for watching. I really appreciate it, and If you enjoyed this video, please make sure
to give it a like, and you can also subscribe for all the latest videos from the channel
A very, very special thanks goes out to Weyland Yutani Executives EmYaruk, and Lady Anne,
part of the Patreon Hive. If you’d like to join the hive and support the channel, check
out my Patreon page for exclusive posts and contests. In the meantime you can catch up with Alien
Theory over social media- follow @Alien_Theory on Twitter, and @AlienTheoryYT on Facebook
and Instagram for more. And until next time, this is Alien Theory, signing off.

Norman Bunn


  1. I have this ship in my display cabnit along with a iddy biddy apc coming down the ramp. This movie still holds the test of time awsome.

  2. Please do a video on the M577 APC. I don't understand how a APC with the ground clearance of a Corvette could be practical . Unless every enemy they encounter is entrenched next to a newly paved road.

  3. It’s you, and Steve1989mreinfo, who’s videos do an excellent job of accompanying me in bed as my final videos to wind down after work. I have had multiple dreams of colonial marines and aliens reviewing mre meals.

  4. Now i dont have to buy the book! Do the WHOLE book and save me money!

  5. I'd love to see the dropship in future movies. Have you considered a retrospective of the alien games?

  6. I listened to this whilst listening to Derelict Spaceship at Orion44 (Drone Ambient) (whilst playing MechWarrior online) lol

  7. Cameron blended an F-4 and an AH-1 for the concept of the dropship, and honestly I think he nailed it.

  8. FYI, Cheyenne is pronounced shy en, not shay en or she en. The lage in fuselage is pronounced loge (like lodge). And sabot is pronounced say boh. Also, Gatling guns are more commonly/properly called rotary cannons in US military parlance, or mini guns when chambered for rifle calibers. Otherwise, good video.

  9. you american?, but pronounced cheyenne like you came from india or singapore, lol.

  10. Colonial marines need thier own movie aerial bombardment ground pounding and more auto gun and multiple beach head scenes.

    Cheyenne Dropships vs Engineer Juggernauts in an all-out dog fight

  12. I wonder how much the ashtray cost in this future military craft……..

  13. I guess that you can call bug stomper stomped on by a bug. I love irony.

  14. I adore the dropship. Thanks for giving it the love it deserves! The Colonial Marine Technical Manual is an absolute treasure.

    One thing that always bothered me about the dropship though is the way the large upper pylons are situated. When deployed, you end up having the wing surface on one side positioned ahead of the wing surface on the other side. I'd think that would play hell with the aerodynamics.

  15. The only channel that seems to be after my own heart with all the knowledge you possess on the Colonial Marines.

  16. Seeing it in this video you can definitely see how it influenced the design of Halo's UNSC Pelican.

  17. "I'm not going back in there and you can't make me", "I say we grease this Rat-F*** son-of-a-b** right now!"

  18. The next Alien Film has to really open the world up. Although shrouding it in mystery is what carries the films. Still something more needs to develop and flush out. These Engineers are more than what meets the eye.

  19. I made Lego Renditions of This ship and The APC . Very good memories

  20. Don't ever let anyone tell you a Smart Ass never did anything the anybody.

  21. 1) Spunkmeyer wasn't a pilot, he was a weapons operator. 2) Smartass was Farro's backup dropship, She could choose either one to Pilot. If it was a full platoon, it would have been 24 troops, 4 squads of 4 Marine each, 2 APC with drivers 2 sections Sergeants, 2 drop shifts each with a pilot and weapons operator, a platoon Commander, and platoon Android. Ripley, Newt,and Burke would make #25, #26, #27 they likely if that ship was fully manned would have possibly 6 platoon Commanders, 24 drop ships, Primary and backups. And 144 colonial Marines. But they were deemed enough to finish the job as well as expendable. Bishop being the platoon Android, new how to remotely operate the backup dropship in emergencies. One drop ship giant not seen in the movie or comics was the UD 22M starboard transport and Recovery medical Dropship, with a elongated chest cavity for medical equipment for surgery. Rear facing exit/ entry ramp, shorter landing gear, windows and no weapons. If I could I would post a picture of SAR, a UD 22M starbird Dropship. The director of aliens said that the UD 4L Chryenne design was modeled after the armies Apache helicopter to make it look more realistic.

  22. Such an iconic airframe it's been the insperation for so many other dropships awesome air craft

  23. I’m now going to watch Aliens for the 39th time.

    Always loved this drop ship.

  24. I sorta wish we got to see the Dropship use the weapons. Ah well.

  25. Definitely would bring back the colonial marines, Alien was a great film, but I love James Cameron’s Aliens ,what a film that was , would love to see Cameron make another

  26. I’ve always said they needed a more direct sequel to aliens with the actual marines and the drop ship seeing more action

  27. Very cool video I did a similler video ages ago , I live the dropship is extremely iconic you've been I big influence on my own channel keep up the good work us lore masters need to stick together

  28. We never got a chance to see what she could do. They never got off a shot.

  29. it is sad that the war game will be over in a few days. If anyone ways going to spend money on a miniature war game this is the one.

  30. I love that dropship!! Such an amazing design. Would love to see it raining death from above in future films, pending Disneys potential to destroy our beloved franchise. I think its safe to say Halos Pelican dropship is inspired by the UD-4L, snd rightfully so! Keep it up AT!!!

    And happy belated Alien Day!

  31. Don't know if this was ever referenced, but I have to believe that this was a big influence on Nolan's Batman series in terms of establishing a level of plausibility and realistic impact when it came to the tech. I mean heck…there's the Batwing and Batmobile front and center.

  32. I would love to see that. I think the dropship was honestly to me the best part of the aliens movie.. when I was a kid I used to make Lego drop ships, draw them etc..I all around love the styling of the craft.. It is truly a timeless masterpiece IMHO right along with the movie itself.. Thumbs up if u agree!

  33. Man, as kids we used to dream they would make one of these for our action figures, always had to resort to making our own dropship and APC

  34. While the original Alien was an amazing movie and groundbreaking, I have to admit that Aliens is my favorite of the series. I'd love to see more marines and the Cheyenne.

  35. You can see the ship that gave birth to this ship on the first terminator.

  36. I brought this model in 90 for £30, when moving house I dropped it and in a fit of rage chucked it in the bin, I kicking myself to this day as it was my favourite model to which I hand paint 50 troops. I'm suprised the us military have not built this for real life.

  37. I always liked the design of the drop ship. Its practical and futuristic looking yet maintains an air of believeability. Looks great and crashes spectacularly.

  38. As I watch this I realize more and more how much Halo was inspired by James Cameron’s work. I only just realized after watching this how much the legendary Pelican Dropship is based off this fine vessel. Thanks for posting this I love all the tech and lore info!

  39. Hey Alien Theory. Did you recognise the similarity in the Warship from Avatar? Welcome Avatar to the alien franchise 😉

  40. Wow, this is really technical. Not exactly language for the average person. It's all just Greek to me.

  41. 12:50 whoa, the green and purple power loader looks great! I want one.

  42. Excellent job on the iconic drop ship. I loved all the detail. The one thing that threw me off was the beginning where you said the crash damaged the cooling system of the atmospheric processor. I believe it was the use of the smart guns while the marines were looking for the colonists that caused the damage. It's been a while since I watched the movie but I've seen it quite a few times and always thought the decision by Vasquez to bring the clips for the smart guns was the cause.

  43. 'The principal frame is constructed from the super-plastic formed diffusion bonded metal matrix composites (MMCs). These light oxidation-resistant MMC structural members are formed from high-modular strength gold and chrome doped zirconium oxide reinforced fiber in a titanium aluminide matrix'

    '10mm explosive-tip caseless. Standard light-armor piercing round, why?

  44. It looks heavy and un-aerodynamic to me. Why didn't it self land after the Alien attacked the pilot if it is so advanced and well specified?

  45. this drop ship, and all military technology from "alien" inspired the graphics on the starcraft game.
    the "terran" species has this dropship.but with no fire support for the troops, other than that, even the voice and the looks of the pilot is the same as in alien.
    also, the "ghost" unit looks like that mexican sniper they had, with the big gun.

  46. Can you do something like this for the 1988 Epic Comics graphic novel Iron Man: Crash by Mike Saenz? The Stark Somatic Combat Vehicle (Iron Man armour), Kinetic Energy Railgun, the fully autonomous IM2 and updated SHIELD Helicarrier and Osprey VTOL craft are all fully realised and beautifully designed.

  47. For anyone who is looking for a great alien experience. Space station 13 has a ALIEN styles server that you should check out.

  48. Alien Theorist a Question: When the Colonial Marines aren't "Stomping Bugs" deploying operations against all sorts of xenomorphs. Who are they "Stand Up" fighting? Is there any information or literature about who or what the Colonial Marines have gone up against? I remember reading something somewhere about an "Arcturian War". Perhaps you know more about it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *