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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

28 Oct 11. The U.S. Air Force is flying armed drones from a civilian airport in southern Ethiopia as part of a growing battle against al-Qaida linked Shabab militants in Somalia, the Washington Post reported Oct. 27.
The airfield in Arba Minch is part of a network of secret bases for unmanned aircraft in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula, the Post reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials. The Air Force has spent millions of dollars to improve the airfield in Ethiopia to accommodate a fleet of Reaper drones that carry Hellfire missiles and precision-guided bombs, it said. The Air Force and the Pentagon declined to comment on the report. Under President Barack Obama, the United States has increasingly turned to drones to carry out covert strikes against al-Qaida and allied militants in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The raids are conducted under the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency, not the military, but special operations forces and drone aircraft can be assigned to the spy agency for the strikes. A spokesman for the 17th Air Force, which is assigned to operations in Africa, told the Post the drone flights “will continue as long as the government of Ethiopia welcomes our cooperation on these varied security programs.” (Source: Defense News)

27 Oct 11. DCNS and Thales announced the launch of a supplementary phase for the Technology Demonstration of a system for automatic landing and deck-landing of UAVs (D2AD), which has just been notified by the French Defence Procurement Authority (DGA). Sea trials of the demonstrator are planned for 2012 using a French Navy frigate and a Boeing, H-6U Unmanned Little Bird rotorcraft. This notification follows on from the successful landing and deck-landing trials conducted in the United States last June and July using a moving platform. This new design study is to be conducted in the context of risk reduction for future tactical UAV programmes to be managed by the DGA on behalf of the French Navy and the French Army*. The next trials are aimed at demonstrating automatic deck-landing of a UAV on the deck of a frigate in total safety even in high sea state and low visibility. The system must demonstrate its capability for integration of all the operational constraints inherent in deck take-offs and landings, similar to those of piloted helicopters, but in fully automatic mode. This automatic system for take-off, landing and deck-landing of UAVs is the fruit of the joint expertise of Thales and DCNS. Thales is responsible for the positioning system and its interface with the UAV system, the supply of a UAV demonstrator system and slaving of the flight path along a trajectory. DCNS is responsible for predicting the vessel motions, the harpoon system as well as the interface and integration with the vessel. The D2AD automatic deck-landing system constitutes a key stage in the run-up to the use of UAV rotorcraft by naval forces, for operations over land and sea. It provides innovative high-performance solutions which meet operational needs. The availability of an automatic on-board take-off and landing system, without the need for an external pilot, opens up the possibility of intensive use of UAV rotorcraft, at minimum cost and a high level of safety.
* SDAM programme: Système de Drone Aérien pour la Marine (UAV system for the navy)
* SDT programme: Système de drone tactique (Tactical UAV system)

24 Oct 11. Environmental scientists will utilize the Northrop Grumman-built unmanned NASA Global Hawks as part of the multi-year Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3), a study of the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean. “The high-altitude and long-duration capabilities of NASA’s Global Hawks allow HS3 to sample storms virtually anywhere in the Atlantic and for durations up to three times that of conventional aircraft,” said principal investigator Scott Braun of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Being

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