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28 Sep 17. Reaper operations ramp up in France. Key Points:
• A French MQ-9 has taken part in ‘Serpentex 2017’: a JTAC exercise hosted by France in Corsica
• The MQ-9’s participation marks the French Reaper fleet’s first real domestically based operation
The sole French General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper based in France has taken part in its first international close air support exercise, ‘Serpentex 2017’, above Corsica in the last month.
France’s MQ-9s have operated out of Niamey, Niger, for Operation ‘Barkhane’ since 2014, but the first domestically based French MQ-9 only began flying out of Air Force Base 709, its home base in Cognac, southwestern France, on 6 July.
The Reaper flying out of Cognac is controlled by a French landing and recovery element (LRE), although, as in Niamey, GA-ASI provides the ground maintenance element.
Exercise ‘Serpentex’, which took place from 11-29 September this year, trains joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) from several NATO countries to conduct close air support missions, with the French Reaper used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) duties and to lase targets on the exercise’s range. The Reapers flown during Operation ‘Barkhane’ have been used to ‘buddy-lase’ precision-guided bombs and Hellfire missiles launched from Mirage strike aircraft and Tiger HAD helicopters respectively.
An average of one Reaper mission per day is launched from Cognac for Exercise ‘Serpentex’. The unmanned aerial vehicle’s (UAV’s) transit from Cognac to Corsica involves a three-hour flight at an average speed of 180–210 kt along a specific military air corridor, which is activated specifically for the duration of the flight. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
27 Sep 17. UK grounding of Watchkeeper lifted. The British Army has lifted a grounding order imposed on its Thales Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) earlier this year after two of the service’s air vehicles were lost in crashes in the Irish Sea.
“Watchkeeper is back in the air after we briefly paused flying earlier this year,” said the commander of the UK’s Joint Helicopter Command (JHC), Royal Navy Rear Admiral Jon Pentreath, after revealing the incidents during the Future of Military Rotorcraft conference at the DSEI defence exhibition in London on 11 September. The admiral’s command is responsible for controlling the Royal Artillery unit equipped with the Watchkeeper: 47 Regiment, based at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
25 Sep 17. Colombia’s CIAC teaming with Airbus for potential Atlante+ UAV. The Colombian Aviation Industry Corporation (Corporación de la Industria Aeronáutica Colombiana: CIAC) has shelved its IRIS unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) project and is now working towards a deal to develop a new UAV with Spain and Airbus. The state-owned CIAC test flew its IRIS, but the aircraft used heavy materials and UAV development is changing quickly so it has moved on to other project, the key being a joint effort with Airbus for the Atlante+, Colonel Alexander Pena, CIAC’s sub-director and interim general manager, told reporters in Bogota on 26 September.
The Colombian and Spanish governments, along with CIAC and Airbus, are working to develop Atlante+ for their militaries and for eventual export. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
27 Sep 17. Drone Major Group Limited launched. Drone Major Group is a new group of companies focused on the fast growing drone industry, has been announced, bringing together a number of complementary businesses which provide connectivity for the first time ever to the global drone industry. Drone Major Group is the first company in the world to provide a unique and integrated suite of products and services to the global drone industry at what is an important time in the development of standards and growth