As an operationally proven system, Global Hawk is finding new
markets in Europe and Australia. The Germans are planning to
operate a derivative of this unmanned aircraft, modified into
an electronic support (ELINT) platform. The aircraft is expected
to provide the unmanned component of the future European Advanced
Ground Sensor (AGS) – an array of manned and unmanned
SAR-equipped platforms supporting NATO forces with wide area
monitoring and targeting capability. Another HALE concept is
being studied by Boeing's Advanced Systems (Phantom Works).
This vehicle is designed to meet future requirements for persistent
battlefield ISR, homeland security and telecommunications.
The vehicle will be built of lightweight structures and powered
by reciprocating engines consuming hydrogen fuel. The "HALE
UAS" will be designed to carry multiple payloads weighing
up to one ton (2,000 pounds). The low specific weight and high
energetic value of liquid hydrogen will offer significant advantages
for extended missions which could last over a week. Boeing also
studies power generation by solar cell systems, produced by
its subsidiary Spectrolab. By 2009, the company plans to offer
space solar cells with efficiencies as high as 33 percent. These
cells are five times more efficient than the solar arrays used
to propel the Helios UAV and could provide a primary power sustaining
an airborne platform for near unlimited mission duration.
Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned systems are is becoming
the hot topics among the military and government circles worldwide,
providing users in the air forces, navies and ground forces
a persistent, dependable aerial platform relieved from the constraints
associated with humans on board. The growing interest in MALE
was reflected by many new programs, introduced here for the
first time, most of them as models. One of the models was this
jet powered MALE UAV developed by the Chinese company AVIC I.
A surprising exhibit was unveiled by the Chinese company AVIC
I, showing two model versions of unmanned systems, a jet powered
High Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) platform and a fast recce
super-drone called DarkSword.
Many of the European air forces have recently expressed their
strong interest in acquiring unmanned MALE systems, to support
military operations as part of coalition forces (such as in Afghanistan),
cope with homeland security, and control illegal immigration.
By the year 2015, European countries are planning to field as
many as 50 MALE UAVs in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Finland
and Sweden to name only a few. One of the first European programs
was the Euro-MALE which followed the basic framework of the Heron
TP, developed by EADS and IAI, under a Franco-German-Dutch cooperation.
This program has been suspended, and, most recently, the Dutch
parliament cancelled the funding for another MALE acquisition
– the Predator B (Reaper).
General Atomics is nothing but idle in its European marketing
thrust – after winning the first sales in Italy (RQ-1) and
Britain (MQ-9), General Atomics is pursuing the prospects of selling
Predator Bs to the German Air Force. As mentioned above, defense
budget cuts in the Netherlands have shelved the Dutch plans to
field Predator B. The company is eyeing potential orders for a
naval version, known as 'Mariner', from the US and Australian
Navies as well as a German Air Force requirement for a land-based
the cancellation of the original program, Euro-MALE EADS is
now pursuing a different path of a modular "Advanced
UAV" turbofan powered platform, based on the Barracuda
experimental UAV. This airplane could be a possible MALE candidate
for endorsement by the European Commission. France and Germany
are already discussing this joint development initiative with
Spain expected to join soon. A competing design could be another
European MALE team, formed by Alenia, Dassault and Saab –
these partners are already pursuing the nEUROn unmanned combat
aircraft (UCAV) demonstrator. However,
each of the team members is already engaged with other commitments.
Alenia Aeronautica is busy with its Sky-Y MALE concept vehicle,
which is also proposed as the baseline platform for the team.
Dassault is interested in continued cooperation with the Israelis,
on Heron follow-on platforms
as well as the F-355 license-produced UAV, based on the Thales/Elbit
/ Hermes 450 platform.
This system is being considered as a replacement of the tactical
UAVs currently deployed with the French Army.
The USAF MQ-1A Predator
from the 432 TFW was presented at the static display in Le Bourget
as part of the static display brought in by the US Department
of Defense. This year the USAF displayed the Predator in its
standard 'armed UAV' configuration, equipped with the MTS stabilized
EO turret, datalinks and two Hellfire missiles. On missions,
Predators are controlled by USAF pilots from the USA via satellite
link. The recce they collect is sent to the US for analysis
and interpretation, while real-time images are also available
for use by ground units equipped with Rover terminals.
Just before the airshow General Atomics flew its latest Predator
variant, the new Sky Warrior
for the first flight. The new design will carry an electro-optical/infrared
sensors plus synthetic aperture radar (SAR). Sky Warrior will
be able to fly longer and higher than Predator, cleared to fly
above an altitude of 29,000ft (8,850m). Compared to its predecessor,
it uses extended wings and increased internal bay doubling the
payload capacity, allowing for carriage of up to four Hellfire
missiles in addition to standard mission systems. General Atomics
plans to deploy the first batch of production aircraft (Block
0) to the southwest Asia in early 2008 to demonstrate its capabilities
and support coalition forces in theatre. The Sky Warrior is equipped
with Heavy Fuel Engine (HFE) accepting either jet or diesel fuel.
The new model will act in the long-endurance surveillance, communications
relay and tactical strike roles.
Among the new faces (at least in model size) was a Turkish
MALE UAV developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). The
ambitious Turkish "Indigenous Medium Altitude Long Endurance"
program calls for the development and production of three prototypes
within 40 months, addressing specific Turkish Air Force requirements.
Meanwhile, Turkey acquired Heron UAVs form Israel Aerospace
Industries, to support immediate air force, army and naval operations.
new experimental UAV developed by Alenia Aeronautica was unveiled
at the show - this is a second member of the "Sky"
platform, designed to demonstrate Medium Altitude, Long Endurance
missions, particularly large area aerial surveillance missions.
The new platform dubbed "Sky-Y"
will demonstrate and test critical technologies required for
future MALE UAVs, including propulsion, surveillance and reconnaissance
sensors, data-links and data-processing systems. These technologies
are targeted for use with Alenia’s future MALE platform
known as the dual-engine Molynx MALE UAV. Molynx, a new air
vehicle under development at Alenia Aeronautica, is designed
specifically for land surveillance and civil protection roles.
Another MALE platform, also under development at Alenia, is
aimed at military applications, of a class similar or higher
than the General Atomics’ Predator B and IAI/MALAT Heron
Israel unveiled two new unmanned aircraft designed for long
endurance missions. MALAT, IAI’s Unmanned Systems Division
introduced the Heron TP
Medium Altitude Long Endurance MALE UAV Platform, developed
for the Israel Air Force and for export. Elbit Systems introduced
the Hermes 900, the latest member of the Hermes family of UAVs.
Eitan, a potential competitor to the Predator B also made its
debut at the airshow. Eitan (also known as Heron TP) is the
largest UAV ever built in Israel. It is designed to operate
at altitudes up to 45,000 ft, on missions extending beyond 36
hours, carrying mission payloads of up to one ton. In the future,
Eitan could be equipped with aerial refueling receptacles and
fuel offloading systems to perform 'buddy refueling' between
two UAVs, therefore extending the platforms mission endurance
to very long duration. The IAI/Heron,
also displayed here, represented another version of an operational
system, as operated by the Indian and Israeli Air Forces, as
a multi-payload MALE platform. The Heron commonly uses two EO
payloads and additional n COMINT, ELINT and SIGINT systems.
The platform can also replace one of the EO turrets, clearing
space for a maritime search radar or SAR.
Another Heron derivative, the French SDIM
was also on displayed at the EADS static park. SDIM (Temporary
MALE system) has just completed a full test campaign at the
French MOD test flight center. The French Air Force acquired
three air vehicles. The tests included 18 flights logging over
100 hours, conducted by two drones between October 2006 and
March 2007. The French Air Force is scheduled to take delivery
of the new system by early 2008. By 2014 France is planning
to field a follow-on MALE system, to be based on a new platform
developed under cooperation with Germany and Sweden.
The Watchkeeper UAV built by Elbit Systems and Thales for the
British forces is also maturing. In recent months, the WK-450
(now designated Hermes 450B)
was reshaped to accommodate specific British requirements. Its
fuselage diameter grew by 30 cm, allowing more space and payload
capacity adding 200 pounds for more fuel and systems. The WK-450
was displayed at the Thales outdoor exhibit, where visitors could
also see the ground control segment. Some of the advanced applications
developed for the system were also displayed. Elbit Systems also
unveiled Hermes's big brother - the new Hermes
900. It is currently under development, with first flight
expected in late 2007.
as a top tier tactical UAV, Hermes 900 will assume many of the
missions of MALE platforms, while retaining the ground support
and commonality of current Hermes tactical UAV units. With a
typical payload capacity of 300 kg, Hermes 900 can easily carry
multiple payloads as well as external stores. Elbit did not
elaborate on the types of such stores, but among the items that
could be considered are suitable guided weapons, cargo dispensers
or air-deployable mini UAVs (a concept first utilized by the
A new tactical UAV is emerging from Switzerland - the Super
Ranger, a growth version of the Ranger short range UAV designed
by RUAG, in cooperation with IAI. Considerably larger than its
predecessor, Super Ranger can accommodate multiple payloads, offering
enhanced mission capability and endurance. The airframe is fitted
with retractable landing gear and meets the new international
UAV Systems Air Worthiness Requirements, ensuring the systems
can fly safely over populated areas.
its international debut at the airshow was the SpyHawk,
from MTC. The lightweight UAV is currently flying as a test-bed
by the US Marine Corps, used for advanced technology evaluation.
Lessons learned through these flights will be used to define
the next phase of the Corps’ Tier II UAV program, The
US Navy is expected to issue request for proposals for tactical
(Tier II) UAVs before the end of 2007.
Another new arrival here was the first Mexican UAV developed
by Hydra Technologies, in development since 2002. According
to company sources, the current version (S4 Ehecatl) is ready
for production and initial orders (probably from the department
of national defense) are expected this year. The UAV is expected
to assume border surveillance and counter narcotics missions.
The drone has a wing span of 3.7m (12ft) and has a Maximum TakeOff
Weigt of 55kg (120lb), including a 9kg (20lb) payload. It can
soar up to an altitude of 15,000 ft and maintain mission endurance
of 8 hours, cruising at 38 knots. (Maximum speed is 90kt).
displayed two members of its new I-View
family of tactical UAVs, developed to operate as an organic
asset at Army Division level and below. The larger I-View 250
and the smallest version, the I-View 50 were on display. Autonomously
operated from a single HMMWV which also carries the launcher,
ground support element and container, it is particularly suitable
for the Brigade level. IAI offers three configurations of the
system, designed for different payloads weights and mission
performance levels. All models use common systems and field
support. The launch customer of the I-View system was Australia,
which will get its first I-View 250 systems within 2- 3 years.
I-View is currently competing on other tactical UAV acquisition
programs including the Israel Defence Forces Small UAV program,
which calls for the deployment of tactical UAVs at brigade level.
Elbit Systems is offering the Skylark
II Small UAV system for the same IDF program. The Skylark
II's main advantage is in its capability to fly covert missions
at low to medium altitude, in day, night, and under low clouds,
when other observations systems are limited by poor visibility.
Mini-UAVs were among the surprises of the recent conflict in
Lebanon. These small and low-cost systems demonstrated excellent
performance, they were most adaptable to the user's needs, and
operating at almost total silence they were virtually invisible
even in daylight. Furthermore, these UAVs are the only platform
capable of delivering imagery 'below the clouds', under weather
conditions that hinder the operation of larger UAVs that operate
above the clouds level. The Israelis operated two types of mini-UAVs,
the Skylark I developed
by Elbit Systems and the RAFAEL Skylite
B, developed and operated by RAFAEL.
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