UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE
04 Apr 08. Israel sets April deadline for $100m battalion UAV contract proposals. A deadline of mid-April has been set for industry proposals for the Israeli Defence Force’s battalion level unmanned air vehicle requirement that would deliver over-the-hill intelligence capabilities. The main competing products for the tender, released in December 2007, are Israel Aerospace Industries’ EyeView 50 UAV, Elbit Systems’ SkyLark, Rafael’s SkyLite, and Aeronautics’ Orbitter. All these UAVs have an endurance of 1.5h or up to 2h and use electric motors. During the selection process, candidate UAVs will be flown for about 100h by crews combining IDF land forces command personnel and the tested vehicle’s manufacturer’s engineers. A source told Flight the first contract would be worth about $30m with options that could increase it up to $100m. Another programme IAI and Elbit Systems have been working on has been suspended because of third-party supply problems. The Turkish government’s programme to equip its army with Israel Aircraft Industries’ medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) Heron UAV has run into problems after manufacturers in Turkey failed to supply the electro-optic payloads. In 2005 IAI and Elbit Systems launched the joint programme to supply the Heron to the Turkish armed forces, with Elbit providing the ground stations. With automatic take-off and landing and integrated mission planning, the Heron can operate at a distance of more than 1,000km (540nm) and at altitudes above 25,000ft (7,600m) for more than 24h. (Source: Flight International)
03 Apr 08. The U.S. Air Force awarded two new contracts Monday for 24 Predator MQ-1B unmanned aircraft and four Predator B Reaper MQ-9 unmanned aircraft worth about $78.7m to General Atomics, according to an Air Force press release.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has continually pressed the Air Force to increase its number of combat air patrols Predators fly over the Middle East in response to the need expressed by field commanders. Currently, the Air Force has about 125 Predators with hopes of growing that number to 300 by 2013 to meet the increased mission requirements. (Source: Defense News)
07 Apr 08. U.S. Army UAS has reached a record 10,000 flight hours on a single aircraft. The milestone was achieved by two different Army I-GNAT® ER aircraft, AI-001 and AI-1005, within days of each other while performing combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Currently flying 2,500 hours a month at some five deployment sites, the U.S. Army’s family of I-GNAT ER/Sky Warrior Alpha UAS was first deployed in March 2004, only six months after contract award. Today the family has grown to more than 15 aircraft and has accumulated over 52,000 flight hours, with 97-percent of those hours spent in combat. In 2006, new additions to the original I-GNAT ER family were named Sky Warrior Alpha and SATCOM capability was incorporated to allow for beyond line-of-sight control. The aircraft have most recently been enhanced with weapons capabilities and can now carry Hellfire missiles.
03 Apr 08. Robot space truck docks with ISS. Europe’s sophisticated new space truck, the ATV, has docked with the International Space Station (ISS). The unmanned vessel carries just under five tonnes of food, water, air, fuel and equipment for the orbiting platform’s three astronauts. The Automated Transfer Vehicle used its own computerised systems to make the attachment at 1445 GMT. Ground control and the ISS crew were on alert just in case there was a problem – but it was a textbook docking. The European Space Agency’s (Esa) station programme manager, Alan Thirkettle, said it was a great engineering achievement. (Source: BBC)