UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE
01 Sep 08. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV): Numbers and Usage. Ministers released (1 Sep 08) details of UAV in service with and on order for UK Forces. 89 Lockheed Martin Desert Hawk III are in service and 42 are on order. 101 Hermes 450 are in service, having been provided by Thales Aerospace under a service provision contract. Two General Atomics’ Reapers are in service and one is on order (as a replacement). From 1 Jul 07 to 30 Jun 08, flying hours were recorded in Iraq as: Desert Hawk III – 1,871 and Hermes 450 – 4,653. During the same period in Afghanistan, the hours were: Desert Hawk III – 1,217; Hermes 450 – 4,615 and Reaper – 2,000 approx. 54 air vehicles are on order under the Watchkeeper programme, with Initial Operating Capability expected to be achieved no later than February 2011.
Comment: The Defence Secretary also admitted that UK Reaper UAV had “been used successfully to launch munitions on seven occasions” in Afghanistan, but he declined to give any further details. The whole concept of armed UAV is one of increasing concern and is worthy of considerable further debate. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 0835, 08 Sep 08)
04 Sep 08. Britain’s Royal Air Force will more than double its fleet of armed MQ9 Reaper UAVs by next year, according to Air Marshal Sir Barry Thornton, the
Ministry of Defence’s Chief of Material (Air). The British will add a third Reaper to their fleet next January and have agreed to purchase two more vehicles next year, Thornton told a Sept. 4 meeting of the. Two vehicles are currently operated from a base in Kandahar in Afghanistan, purchased as an urgent operational requirement. The Reapers are operated by personnel from the RAF’s 39 Squadron situated at Creech Air Force base in Nevada, where a combined U.S./U.K. task force has been in existence for several years. The third Reaper will replace one lost earlier this year when it suffered a mechanical failure during an operation over Afghanistan. Thornton said the Reaper had become a vital asset and was in constant demand by NATO forces operating in Afghanistan. In January, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a potential sale of up to 10 Reapers to the British. (Source: Defense News)
Sep 08. Elbit Systems has received a contract worth $25mi to provide an unnamed country in the Americas its Hermes 450 and Skylark 1 UAS. Sources say that the country is Mexico. The Hermes 450 is already used by Israel and Singapore and forms the core of the United Kingdom’s future Watchkeeper system. The Skylark has previously been purchased by Australia, Canada, and France. (Source: AUVSI)
09 Sep 08. The Boeing Company has completed its acquisition of Insitu Inc., a pioneer in the unmanned air systems (UAS) market and leader in the design, development and manufacture of high-performance, low-cost UAS used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Sep 08. An unmanned land vehicle with the ability to learn to navigate its surroundings was recently shown at the defense industry DVD Show. The Mira Autonomous Control Engineering version 2, or MACE-2, is a blue space-frame vehicle with Land Rover axles and a diesel/electric engine along with a nitrogen-charged spring/shock system. Applicable to both civilian and defense uses, the MACE-2 is able to remember the terrain and environment after it is deployed, and it can communicate with headquarters and other nearby MACE-2 vehicles to learn more. Using a wheel-forward design for excellent approach angles, it can achieve speeds over 80 miles an hour with a lightweight frame and a range of 120 miles. Pending further development, the MACE-2 may be available in production versions starting next year. (Source: AUVSI)
Sep 08. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute are working with colleagues at Caterpillar Inc. to develop autonomous versions of large haul trucks used in mining operations. The Robotics Institute