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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

21 Jan 14. UK fleet of 657 UAS is worth £4bn. The UK’s £4bn fleet of 657 unmanned ­aircraft is one of the largest in the world. A Freedom of Information request found the biggest number of British UAS are the 324 Black Hornet Nano micro-helicopters, ­only four inches long and an inch wide (100x25mm). The fleet also includes 10 Reaper MQ-9s, which are armed with Hellfire ­missiles plus laser-guided 500lb bombs and can hover 20,000ft above targets for more than 20 hours. Then there are 222 Desert Hawks, plastic UAS with a 4ft 3in ­wingspan (1.3m). David Cameron held one on a visit to Afghanistan last June. For tougher operations, 54 Watchkeepers can stay aloft for 17 hours. Nine more are due in service soon to ­replace ­ageing Hermes 450s. By ­contrast 30 Tarantula Hawks weigh just 20lbs apiece and are used as recce aides by bomb-disposal teams in Afghanistan. Lastly there are eight ScanEagles, a specialist UAS being used in the ­campaign against Somali pirates. UAS are likely to make up a third of all RAF working aircraft by 2030 but human rights groups fear they could be used to spy on the innocent public. The MoD declined to comment. (Source: UAS VISION)

20 Jan 14. My, how times—and political winds—have changed for the beleaguered Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. Less than two years after proposing termination and premature mothballing of the new Block 30 version—once eyed as a replacement for the venerable, high-flying U-2 reconnaissance aircraft—the Pentagon leadership is toying with a complete reversal on its position as it works through options for the fiscal 2015 budget proposal. In a resourcing management decision—the mechanism by which the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) responds to the services’ annual spending plans—Pentagon budgeters gutted U-2 funding, shifting more than $3bn into the Global Hawk Block 30 account. The decision is not yet final, and it remains to be seen whether the service will maintain its position from the fiscal 2013 budget. It favored halting Block 30 work and operations and focusing solely on the Lockheed Martin U-2 as the high-altitude, standoff intelligence collector for the next decade or more. Officials in the OSD and the Air Force do not comment on funding decisions prior to their delivery to Congress. But there are a variety of reasons behind the possible reversal of course by the Pentagon’s leadership. These include politics and a shift in the cost estimate to operate the fleet. The outcome of this debate could be a bellwether for other such squabbles down the road as the Pentagon proposes fleet terminations—including the A-10, Kiowa and TH-67—in the wake of sequestration and other fiscal pressures. Will the Pentagon and the service capitulate to parochial pressure from Capitol Hill to save a politically popular program? Or will they go to bat for the savings plans they have devised in light of dramatically declining investment budgets? Defense planners argue that if each fleet cut is adjusted, overall savings will be eroded, leaving the Pentagon with a “hollow force” of many platforms that it cannot afford to fly and keep current. (Source: Defense News/AvWeek)

23 Jan 14. Morocco Now Has French Harfangs. International media sources have reported recently that Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF) has acquired the three ‘Harfang’ unmanned aircraft systems retired by the French Air Force after several years of service in Afghanistan. The Harfang, which is based on the Israeli IAI/Malat Heron-I system and deployed with the
‘Armee de’Lair’ in 2008, was delivered by EADS (Now Airbus Defense & Space), under the Eagle I cooperative development with Israel Aerospace Industries. Morocco and France have long established military cooperation, although in recent years Rabat has aligned closer to the US, procuring a range of new military systems, including F-16C/D Block 52 jet fighters, along with the latest air/air and air/ground weaponry, M-1A1 Main Battle Tanks and the Pre

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