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24 Feb 22. Airbus and OCCAR sign Eurodrone contract. Airbus and the Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR) have signed the Eurodrone global contract, which includes the development and manufacturing of 20 systems and 5 years of initial in-service support. Industry prime Airbus Defence and Space GmbH signed in representation of the three Major Sub-Contractors (MSC) Airbus Defence and Space S.A.U in Spain, Dassault Aviation in France and Leonardo S.p.A. in Italy, while OCCAR has signed on behalf of the four launch nations Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
“This signature kicks-off the development of one of the most ambitious European defence programmes. Eurodrone is the result of collaborative work between the industry, OCCAR and the nations. It will deliver the most advance Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) in its segment, generate more than 7,000 high-tech jobs within the industry and will strengthen European industrial sovereignty, know-how and collaboration between nations”, said Mike Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space.
“This contract marks the determination of the European nations and industrial partners to achieve the political goals and to meet the technological challenges leading to European defense sovereignty. Innovative programmes with strong key technological foundations will guarantee the strategic autonomy of Europe by offering new alternatives to the on-the-shelf acquisition of non-European products. Thanks to a shared vision and a pragmatic approach, Eurodrone is carried by the choice of best in-house competencies and expertise of each company”, declared Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.
“Today’s announcement marks an important milestone for the european nations which confirms the determination and achievements of the Industrial Partners in meeting the challenges that accompany the development of a complex and strategic European Defence and Security Programme. Eurodrone will provide high performance and sovereign operational systems to the armed forces and represents a key constituent of the European Defence Industry as well as a unique opportunity to showcase our high technological expertise and capabilities stemming from decades of European collaboration on military programmes. Eurodrone will contribute to sustaining key competencies and jobs within Europe, providing armed forces with top performance and independent operational systems for years to come”, said Lucio Valerio Cioffi, General Manager of Leonardo.
Eurodrone is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) with versatile and adaptable capabilities that make it the perfect platform for Intelligence, Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions or homeland security operations. Its opened architecture part of the future-proof design will allow for growth and rescoping system capabilities as may be required by the future needs of customer armed forces.
It is the first MALE designed from the start to meet requirements for integration into civil airspace, helping to improve efficiencies such as use of direct flight paths, without the need for pre-planned emergency landing sites, which saves time, fuel and, as a result, CO2 emissions.
Eurodrone relies on Digital Design, Manufacturing and Services (DDMS), a new, digital-first approach applied by Airbus to the way aerospace products are designed, manufactured and operated throughout all product phases. Eurodrone is the first programme that will be fully designed and developed from the start through DDMS in a stepped approach and aims to benefit from better upgrade planning, improved operational availability and lower life-cycle costs.
25 Feb 22. China’s CASC to push tiltrotor UAV development in Tazhou. State-owned defence prime China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) announced on 21 January that it is planning to build a larger prototype of its Caihong 10 (CH-10) fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial vehicle (VTOL UAV) at its new automated manufacturing facility in the eastern Zhejiang Province. The company also noted that the maiden flight of the CH-10 technology demonstrator occurred in 2019 and has been undergoing reliability testing since. Further validation of the basic design is also planned, with the knowledge gained being used to inform development of a larger and more capable model, CH-10 programme team leader Wen Xi said. According to official specifications, the CH-10 has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of approximately 350 kg in its present state of development and is powered by a main engine housed within its fuselage, which powers twin-bladed propellers on wing-mounted nacelles and enables it to achieve a maximum level flight speed of more than 300 km/h and operate at altitudes of up to 7,000 m. The air vehicle is also abl o transitin to helicopter mode mid-flight and perform sustained hover in gusty wind conditions of over 10 m/s. CASC is understood to be pitching the CH-10 at potential ship-based applications, given the limited deck space that precludes the use of larger fixed-wing UAVs. If successfully commercialised, the CH-10 will expand the product portfolio of the Cai Hong UAV Base in the Taizhou Bay Circular Economy Industrial Agglomeration Zone. The facility was commissioned in December 2019 and has since manufactured an undisclosed number of CH-4 and CH-5 medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) UAVs for domestic and international customers. The Cai Hong UAV Base is the latest among several unmanned aircraft production lines that the company has commissioned within the past 10 years, and is designed to produce man-portable micro-UAVs to satcom-enabled, long-range MALE-class armed reconnaissance platforms. Local reports suggest that the facility could eventually produce up to 200 “medium and large” UAVs annually. (Source: AMR)
22 Feb 22. EDGE Unveils Swarming Drones at UMEX 2022. EDGE, an advanced technology group for defence and beyond, and one of the top 25 defence contractors globally, has unveiled swarming drones, its latest application for unmanned aerial systems (UAS), on the first day of the Unmanned Systems Exhibition and Conference (UMEX 2022), taking place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) until 23 February. Participating as the event’s official Strategic Partner in its second appearance at UMEX, EDGE showcased its swarming drones, which are based on the Hunter 2 series of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) developed by HALCON, a regional leader in the production and supply of precision-guided weapons and UAS. Designed to ensure a decisive edge in combat, the ground-launched drones fly in formation to perform a coordinated mission that can overwhelm an adversary. Leveraging advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology, the tactical drones share information with one another to track and maintain their relative positions, and to effectively engage targets. Featuring a maximum take-off weight of 8kg, the swarm of drones are agile and responsive while being directed to their target, which may include enemy fighter jets on the tarmac at a military base, or an incoming convoy of enemy armoured vehicles, for example. The drones are equipped to operate at cruising speeds that support mission success, with a significant communications range and healthy flight endurance. The winged UAVs can be deployed in a matter of seconds, featuring a wingspan of 1.44m and a length of 1.25m.
Commenting on the addition of swarming drones to HALCON’s already impressive array of UAVs, CEO Saeed Al Mansoori said, “We see AI playing a critical role in the advancement of the defence sector and beyond, and EDGE and HALCON are determined to remain at the cutting-edge of these developments that are shaping our sector and the wider world, from our base in the UAE. The level of autonomy afforded by these swarming drones is a significant achievement for us, and we are committed to fast-tracking R&D investments in these domains to bring related products to market with speed in the areas of autonomous systems and smart munitions.”
The EDGE stand at UMEX exemplifies HALCON’s technology leadership within the UAV domain, with products including its Shadow 25 and Shadow 50 UAVs; Hunter series of drones and tube launchers; and the recently launched REACH-S unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), on display. UMEX is the only event in the Middle East dedicated to drones, robots, unmanned systems, and their components, and offers EDGE the opportunity to feature its state-of-the-art capabilities and solutions
EDGE is an advanced technology group established to develop agile, bold and disruptive solutions for defence and beyond. Enabling a secure future, it is dedicated to bringing innovative technologies and services to market with greater speed and efficiency. Consolidating over 25 entities and employing more than 13,000 brilliant minds, it offers expertise across five core clusters: Platforms & Systems, Missiles & Weapons, Cyber Defence, Electronic Warfare & Intelligence and Mission Support. Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, EDGE is a catalyst for change – set to revolutionise the industry and change its fundamentals. (Source: UAS VISION)
24 Feb 22. India Puts $3bn Predator Deal on Hold. India has put its plan to acquire 30 Predator armed drones from the US on the back burner, on account of its focus on indigenous development and manufacturing, as well as the prohibitive cost involved. Apparently the Pentagon has been informed of the decision. Although the Narendra Modi government on February 9 banned the import of drones, acquisition of unmanned aerial vehicles for defence and security purposes are exempt, but still require special and specific clearances. “As of now, the Predator deal is off,” said a top South Block official who asked not to be named. Spearheaded by the Indian Navy, India was planning to acquire 30 Predator armed drones for use across services (10 each for the navy, air force and army) at the cost of at least $3bn from US-based General Atomics. The Indian Navy already has taken two surveillance Predators on lease from the US company and uses them for conducting reconnaissance of India’s maritime and land borders with China and Pakistan. The decision to put the acquisition on hold was taken as India already has some capability in armed drones; it is currently upgrading the Israeli Heron drones. The Predator platform with armed payload, as in missiles and laser-guided bombs, costs nearly $100 million apiece, but the platform has an endurance of nearly 27 hours. The Indian Navy uses it for maritime domain awareness from Gulf of Aden to Sunda Straits in Indonesia. While the Indian Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is expected to unveil its medium altitude long endurance (MALE) drone latest by March, the country’s national security planners are looking at futuristic high altitude pseudo satellite (HAPS) technology for surveillance and targeting capability. India has already demonstrated its capacity and capability for the manufacture of swarm drones, as was showcased in the Beating Retreat ceremony this year. Besides DRDO, private Indian companies are also involved in the development of drones that are cheaper to operate compared to the Predator and pack similar lethality. While the Indian Navy and Army have significant use for the drones for domain awareness, the Indian Air Force was sceptical of Predators due to congested airspace, and the presence of surface to air missiles and radars in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The Air Force is in favour of purchasing more fighter aircraft. (Source: UAS VISION/Hindustan Times)
21 Feb 22. UMS SKELDAR introduces the modular design benefits of its V-150 UAS. The SKELDAR V-150’s modular design accelerates maintenance procedures by introducing the possibility of fifteen-minute complete engine unit refits; simultaneously reduces the logistical footprint for efficient transportation and storage. UMS SKELDAR will introduce the benefits of its modular SKELDAR V-150 Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) to key stakeholders attending this year’s UMEX tradeshow in Abu Dhabi. The SKELDAR V-150’s modular design not only accelerates customer maintenance schedules, but also brings with it the possibility of carrying out an engine exchange in just 15 minutes. Developing a design that allows the engine to be removed together with its supporting frame and ancillary equipment enables the complete set of components to become one easily exchangeable unit. Furthermore, an easily removable tail boom and rotor halve the storage and transportation length to just 1.6 m. Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) UASs are often grounded for extended periods due to unnecessarily long service procedures. The root cause is often a design that restricts access to consumable components, requiring highly specialized maintenance technicians to work through unnecessarily lengthy service procedures. Thanks to the SKELDAR V-150’s modular design and engine exchange system, an existing engine that has accumulated maximum service hours can be overhauled whilst a secondary engine is fitted in its place within just minutes. Another benefit is that routine system and engine maintenance can be performed far more efficiently, without the need for disassembly or removal of surrounding components. The ultimate aim is to enable end-users to carry out maintenance on the UAS quickly and cost-effectively, greatly increasing operational efficiency.
“At UMS SKELDAR, we aim to constantly develop our VTOL platforms based on customers’ requirements,” explains Richard Hjelmberg. “Ease of maintenance and reduced overhaul times are areas that are often overlooked by our competitors. UMS SKELDAR’s maintenance solutions fulfil a crucial need that enable the SKELDAR V-150 to spend more time in the air delivering intelligence. Thanks to its modular design, our SKELDAR V-150 provides customers with exactly what they require: the ability to perform routine servicing and overhauls without unnecessarily disassembling elements of the UAS every time.”
Alongside efficient maintenance procedures, the SKELDAR V-150 has been designed to have a small logistical footprint. Innovations such as an easily removable tail boom and rotor make it ideal for sea and land-based operations where space is at a premium. This is especially useful for mobile tactical operations, where the requirement to be fully operational in a matter of minutes is of utmost importance. For more information about the SKELDAR V-150, click here: https://umsskeldar.aero/v-150-skeldar/
22 Feb 22. Airbus launches conceptual Remote Carrier ‘loyal wingman’ from A400M mother ship. Airbus has launched a conceptual Remote Carrier (RC) ‘loyal wingman’ unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from a ‘mother ship’ aircraft for the first time. The company, which is heading the RC development pillar of the Next-Generation Weapon System (NGWS) element of the Franco-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System (FCAS)/Système de Combat Aérien Futur (SCAF) programme, made the announcement about the UAV launch from an A400M airlifter on 21 February.
“During a recent test, an A400M deployed a drone from its opened rear cargo ramp door whilst airborne, validating its ability to air-launch drones,” Airbus said. “During the A400M flight test, an Airbus-built Do-DT25 drone, acting as a surrogate Remote Carrier, was released over a test range in Northern Germany. Shortly after the launch, the drone’s parachute opened, delivering it safely to the ground.” (Source: Janes)
17 Feb 22. Elbit unveils Skylark 3 hybrid STUAS. Elbit Systems has unveiled a new variant of the Skylark 3 small tactical unmanned aerial system (STUAS) that is powered by a new hybrid propulsion system. The Skylark 3 Hybrid small tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (STUAV), first revealed at the Singapore Airshow 2022 that is taking place from 15 to 18 February at the Changi Exhibition Centre, combines a battery-powered electric engine and an internal combustion engine, increasing the mission effectiveness and cost-efficiency of the system without compromising the size or weight, the company said.
“The Skylark 3 Hybrid uses its combustion engine to fly rapidly to the Area Of Interest (AOI) and switches to the electrical engine while operating above the AOI,” Elbit said. The use of two engines provides propulsion redundancy, which improves flight safety and reliability, with one engine backing up the other, it added. (Source: Janes)
18 Feb 22. UAE’s Edge Group to release tube-launched Hunter 10 drone in 2023. Emirati defense firm Halcon plans to begin offering its tube-launched Hunter 10 drone in early 2023, the CEO of the Edge Group subsidiary told Defense News
“The development of the tube-launched Hunter 10 drone is advancing successfully,” Saeed Al Mansoori added. The first prototype of the Hunter 10 was unveiled during the 2021 Dubai Airshow near its 58-kilogram (128-pound) tube launcher.
The drone weighs 10 kilograms, has a 4.2-meter wingspan and has a length of 3.4 meters. It has a takeoff weight of 47 kilograms and can be fired from the back of an armored or artillery vehicle. The drone, which has an electric engine, can carry a 10-kilogram payload, fly at a maximum altitude of 2,500 meters and operate at a cruising speed of 60 knots. It’s designed to perform reconnaissance and attack missions, and has a 40-minute endurance.
Al Mansoori said his company will showcase 20 products during the UMEX 2022 trade show, which is focused on unmanned technology and takes place Feb. 21-23.
“Edge will display a range of Halcon’s unmanned, precision-guided systems including the Shadow 25 and Shadow 50 UAVs; Hunter series of drones and tube launchers; the recently launched Reach-S [unmanned combat aerial vehicle]; and the Remote Control Container System,” he told Defense News.
Unmanned systems made by Halcon don’t currently use 5G telecommunication networks, but Al Mansoori said the company has a technology road map that includes the integration of 5G, satellite and other communications technologies into its drones. At the IDEX defense conference last year, Halcon unveiled SkyKnight, a radar-equipped missile for integration into the Oerlikon air defense system, made by German company Rheinmetall. SkyKnight is the first missile system designed and manufactured in the United Arab Emirates that can counter rockets, artillery and mortars. It was designed to mitigate these threats at a range of up to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles).
“Development of the actual SkyKnight system commenced in August 2020 with a full-strength team. Key milestones achieved since that time include the first missile tests out of a canister; full system requirement reviews for user needs and system design; subsystem design; and wind tunnel test model design and manufacturing,” Al Mansoori said. (Source: Defense News)
17 Feb 22. Unmanned or minimally manned vessels could deploy alongside strike groups as soon as 2027. The chief of naval operations wants to deploy minimally manned or unmanned surface vessels with a strike group in the next five or six years, with an eye toward scaled-up unmanned systems operations around the globe in the 2030s. And he hopes to start working toward that goal without a proper budget in place.
Adm. Mike Gilday told reporters in a Feb. 16 call that he wants the U.S. Navy to experiment, fail fast as needed, and learn a lot of lessons on unmanned technology and concepts of operations.
His new unmanned task force spent about 14 weeks conducting seven different spirals — rounds of experimentation — on various aspects of unmanned systems, including payload integration on larger unmanned vessels and the reliability of components like engineering plants and flight controls.
“These spirals, taking a look at specific technologies from specific vendors, gave us insights on what technologies or lines of emphasis we should continue to pursue, which ones we should absolutely accelerate now, and which ones we should pivot away from because they just weren’t performing at a level or we didn’t get what we expected out of them,” Gilday told Defense News during the roundtable.
Additionally, he said, some of those same technologies are undergoing testing in International Maritime Exercise 2022 in the Middle East, which ran Jan. 31-Feb. 17 and is the largest-ever exercise focused on unmanned systems and artificial intelligence.
“That effort is intended to not only help us push these spirals along so that we can actually see capabilities in a real-world environment, but also it informs our concept of operations and how we’re going to employ them either alone or in conjunction with other unmanned or manned assets,” Gilday said, adding that exercises like IMX and the ongoing work of the unmanned task force were meant to help field unmanned systems within the five-year Future Years Defense Program.
But he FYDP is murky, at best, from a budget standpoint. The government is operating under a continuing resolution, with the potential for a full-year CR still looming — which would see the Navy stuck with fiscal 2021 spending items for another year, instead of moving onto the planned FY22 projects and funding levels. This is happening as the Biden administration is late in releasing its FY23 budget request to Congress but is already starting to craft the FY24 request despite the uncertainty.
Asked if the fiscal situation means all of today’s lessons learned on unmanned technology must wait until FY24 to start shaping decisions, Gilday told Defense News that the Navy is finding ways to influence a path forward on unmanned systems now.
“We’re moving now. We’re using [research and development] money now. We are leveraging NavalX through [the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition] to leverage our touchpoints into industry, especially small companies,” he said.
Using IMX and its host, the new Task Force 59 unmanned experimentation unit under U.S. 5th Fleet, as an example, Gilday said the at-sea work is “not only giving us insights into new technologies but also helping mature our concept of operations in terms of how we think about using them.”
The concept of employment could greatly affect what system and how many the Navy buys, Gilday said, making it important to do this work even as the service takes a slow and deliberate approach in selecting unmanned systems, such as those for the medium and large unmanned surface vessel programs.
For example, he said, a long-endurance, small UAV — like a drone with the endurance to fly for several thousand miles carrying payloads for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance — could make the Navy less dependent on the medium unmanned surface vessel as a forward ISR node. The Navy could, in that situation, buy fewer MUSVs and buy a large number of expendable small UAVs that could provide a more persistent and a more distributed ISR capability.
“I think about how we’re going to fight, and we have been maturing distributed maritime operations along with the Marine Corps’ [expeditionary advanced base operations concept and its littoral operations in a contested environment concept], kind of nested in there for the last five or six years. And we feel that we have a very good understanding of how conceptually we’re going to fight in the future. That’s now informing what we’re going to fight with, over what we believe to be a very large area coming at an aggressor across many different vectors,” the CNO said, noting that unmanned systems could help provide both the high-volume capacity and the high-end capability to operate this way in the coming years.
Royal Jordanian Navy Senior Chief Malek Ta’ani hand-launches an M5D Airfox drone during International Maritime Exercise/Cutlass Express 2022 on Feb. 14. (MC2 Dawson Roth/U.S. Navy)
Later in the call, Gilday added that he wants to do the underlying experimentation within the five-year FYDP. Just outside that time frame, in about 2027 or 2028, he hopes to see early solutions deployed with a carrier strike group or an amphibious ready group.
“They may not necessarily be completely unmanned, they may be minimally manned, but I want be in the position where we can crawl, walk, run, get those platforms out there after we’ve proven in a land-based test facility that they’re reliable, get them out there with the fleet, actually deploy with them, to put us in a position where we can scale in the 2030s” to use unmanned systems in larger quantities and “make distributed maritime operations come alive in a way that would be highly effective if we actually had to fight.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
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