New Delhi, 06 July 2001 

Searcher II (left) and Aero Sky UAVs exhibited at Paris Air Show

No modern Army can do without UAV痴 (unmanned airborne vehicles) 末 which are cheap and very effective information gatherers with electronics having improved and hopefully the Indian Army, after suffering 557 deaths in Kargil, has realised it too. DRDO promised it the UAV Nishant but it has been slow in coming, so IDC has put up this special review. The UAV Scene at the Paris Air Show was amazing and eye opening.

USA has leaned on its UAVs, Predator and Pioneer at sea, and now Northrop Grumman has orders for Global Hawk, which can fly from USA to UK on its own and recce all that it sees. UAV's are the future for most Armed Forces and Israel is leading in the cost effective varieties.


France operates the Crecerelle UAV manufactured by Sagem.  Crecerelle is deployed with the French army, and offers real-time video downlink. An EW version exists for communications jamming. Sagem has produced the Sperwer UAV, which is being manufactured for the Swedish (UGGLAN) and Danish armies.  Most recently, Sperwer was awarded its airworthiness certificate by the Dutch Ministry of Defense. This is a new development as UAVs will now have to be certified, as they will be commonplace in the air space.

Unlike France, Germany is acquiring the Brevel, and is studying a tactical UAV for sea-based operations under the SEAMOS program.  The Indian Navy too will have to look sharp, though it is relying on the KA 31 AEW which it is acquiring. The German Army has also deployed the unmanned aerial vehicle KZO manufactured by STN Atlas Electronik.  An EW version of the KZO, named Mucke, is under development. German military forces recently completed the 1,000th launch of the CL-289 reconnaissance UAV. The Franco-German Cl-289 has operated for three years in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia and this is how many lives were saved and counter attacks made possible.  

NATO has awarded the EADS Dornier unit a contract to equip 140 of the UAVs with ADA operational software as part of a plan to develop a crisis management and conflict prevention capability.

The European Rapid Force is also contemplating to have UAVs, as these are cheap force
multipliers. EADS is also working with Northrop Grumman on Eurohawk, a Global Hawk platform with a European-built sensor but this will be an expensive proposition.

The UK has two primary programs. The Sender tactical UAV and the Spectator long-endurance UAV.  It is expected that both programs will be consolidated under the Watchkeeper program. In addition to its Sky Eye R4E UAV deployed with the U.S. Army 末 produced in Santa Monica, California 末 BAe Systems is developing an interesting little UAV. Designed to be hand-tossed like a paper airplane, the Microstar micro-UAV was originally developed under a DARPA contract awarded to Lockheed Martin's Saders in 1998. Now a BAe project since its acquisition of Sanders, Microstar focuses on "over-the-hill" surveillance. This is what the Indian Army needs to have in the Kashmir zone.

In addition to acquiring USA's Predator, Italy is still considering purchases of the Mirach 26 tactical UAV and Mirach 150 medium-endurance UAV, both manufactured by Finmeccanica.  Both have been under consideration since the mid-1990s, with the recent Kosovo conflict forcing Itlay to re-examine the craft.

Israel Aircraft Industries brought several UAVs to Le Bourget.  At the top of the Israeli list is the Harpy lethal anti radar attack UAV, which made its first appearance at Paris.  IAI also exhibited the Searcher II tactical UAV that India is buying and a Hunter multi-payload UAV for short-range tactical assignments. IDC learnt India is getting the Searcher 1 which has a height restriction of 10,000 feet and Searcher II can go up to 19000 feet. 

The Hunter exhibited was from Belgium and will have an enhanced payload package, different from the Hunters operated by the U.S. Army and co-produced with TRW.

In mid-May, the Jerusalem Post reported that France selected IAI's Eagel-I UAV, which is based on IAI's Heron long-endurance, medium to high-altitude UAV.  It beat out General Atomics' Predator for the $40 million to $50 million contract.  This shows how little the UAVs cost. They are powerful little model planes, but have electronic eyes in the sky. Europe's EADS will assemble the electronics and payload for the Eagle-1. French officials have not confirmed the newspaper's report.

Israel's air force presently operates one squadron of UAVs, which IDC reported earlier was visited by Air Marshal P Singh and Mr Baranwal, editor of the SP's Military Year Book. There are plans to deploy a second squadron with the Silver Arrow Hermes 450 endurance UAV.  

In recent weeks, Israeli officials approached the U.S. about possible joint development of a UAV designed to seek and destroy ballistic missile launchers, which could be an add-on to NMD.  Designed to target launchers for Iraqi Scud-type missiles, the system would complement the US/Israel developed Arrow II theater missile defense system.

South Africa continues with its long-standing UAV programs through the manufacturer Denel. One of the country's main UAVs is Seeker.II, designed for surveillance; Seeker II features a 250-kilometer radius surveillance range, 10 hours endurance, 18,000 foot service ceiling, and 50 kg multi-mission payload.


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