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22 May 06. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV): Operational Strikes. The Armed Forces’ Minister confirmed that UK personnel had “been involved in five unmanned aerial vehicle strikes in Iraq and one in Afghanistan”. The Defence Procurement Minister separately confirmed (22 May 06) that “a number” of Armed Forces personnel were qualified to operate the Predator UAV and had done so under operational conditions. Comment: Ministers (one in the Commons and one in the Lords) have been strangely coy about RAF involvement with the Predator UAV, which are leased from the US Air Force. A year ago (27 May 05) ‘RAF News’ described 1115 Flight, which is based at Nellis AFB in Navada. The Flight has 44 people working alongside US Air Force personnel operating the Predator. Commanded by a Squadron Leader, the Flight includes seven pilots and eight sensor operators. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 0621, 29 May 06)

27 May 06. Two American manufacturers of unmanned air vehicles (UAV) are preparing to take part in an offshore surveillance trial announced 18 months ago by Prime Minister John Howard. The General Atomics RQ-8A Mariner UAV, which is already in service with the US Customs and Border Protection service, will fly a series of surveillance missions over Australia’s North West Shelf oil and gas installations from the RAAF’s bare base at Learmonth in Western Australia in August and September. It will be controlled from Adelaide with all of its sensor data downloaded by satellite to Edinburgh air force base. Northrop Grumman and the US Air Force have no RQ-4A Global Hawk UAVs available for the trial so will undertake a “virtual” trial using a computer model to simulate the detection and tracking of targets ranging from small wooden boats to light aircraft. Again, the surveillance data will be satellite-linked to Edinburgh. While Global Hawk isn’t available for the trial in August, a Global Hawk was deployed to Edinburgh in February this year on its way back from the Gulf. From there it carried out a series of similar surveillance trials in waters near Malaysia and Singapore before returning to the US. The purpose of the trial is not so much to evaluate the UAVs themselves as to examine how UAVs can mesh with the rest of Australia’s military and civil surveillance infrastructure. The trial will also study the networking and command and control aspects of operating UAVs in Australian-controlled airspace. (Source: The Australian)
May 06. Northrop Grumman awarded $60m contract for long-lead items for five RQ-4B Global Hawks and associated equipment. Northrop Grumman Systems, Integrated Systems Air Combat Systems, San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $60,621,200 fixed-price-incentive, firm target contract. This action provides for long lead parts/advance procurement for the following low rate initial production lot 6 items: five RQ-4B Air Vehicles; three mission control elements; three launch recovery elements, support segment-support equipment and initial spares. At this time, total funds have been obligated. Solicitations began February 2006 and negotiations were complete in May 2006. This work will be complete March 2007. Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8620-06-C-3002).

25 May 06. The Government Accountability Office is recommending that the U.S. Army delay the purchase of long-lead items for the Warrior unmanned aerial vehicle program’s low-rate initial production phase until it can demonstrate it has a firm grasp of the program’s overall technical maturity. (Source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report)

May 06. Lockheed Martin awarded $7M contract modification for the Predator 3D Imaging Laser Radar program. Lockheed Martin Corp., Grand Prairie, Texas, is being awarded a $7,842,633 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification. This action provides for the Predator Imaging Laser Radar program, which demonstrates a 3-dimensional imaging laser rada

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