< Prev | Next > | Index | Home | SiteMap | SiteSearch | Links | Updates | Email Comments

[9.0] International Battlefield UAVs (2)

v1.2.0 / 9 of 16 / 01 jan 03 / greg goebel / public domain

* This chapter completes the discussion of international battlefield UAVs, focusing on UAVs from other European nations and from other regions.


[9.1] BELGIAN MBLE EPERVIER
[9.2] ITALIAN METEOR UAVS
[9.3] BRITISH BAE SYSTEMS PHOENIX / WATCHKEEPER
[9.4] SWISS OERLIKON RANGER
[9.5] GERMAN EURODRONE BREVEL / ATN TAIFUN & LUNA
[9.6] AUSTRIAN SCHIEBEL CAMCOPTER
[9.7] RUSSIAN YAK-61 SHMEL / KAMOV KA-37
[9.8] MISCELLANEOUS BATTLEFIELD UAVS

[9.1] BELGIAN MBLE EPERVIER

* Although it was the Israelis who put the battlefield UAV on the map, some European nations had fielded such aircraft well before Israel. One example of such early UAVs was the "Epervier (Sparrowhawk)" UAV, built by Manufacture Belge De Lampes Et De Materiel Electronique SA (MBLE) of Belgium.

The Epervier was introduced into Belgian military service in the early 1970s, after a development effort that began in the mid-1960s. The initial Epervier prototypes were propeller-driven, but the initial production Epervier UAV, the "X.5" model, was fitted with a Rover TJ125 turbojet with 510 N (52 kg / 114 lb) thrust.

The Epervier was apparently inspired by a Northrop-Ventura (RadioPlane) drone design. It had a boxy fiberglass fuselage with a rear-mounted truncated-delta wing, a vertical tailfin on the fuselage, and winglet fins at the end of each wing.

   MBLE EPERVIER:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                1.72 meters         5 feet 8 inches
   length                  2.25 meters         7 feet 4 inches
   height                  0.75 meters         2 feet 6 inches
   takeoff weight          142 kilograms       313 pounds

   cruising speed          500 KPH             310 MPH / 270 KT
   service ceiling         4,000 meters        13,000 feet

   launch scheme           RATO booster.
   recovery scheme         Parachute.
   payload                 Day / night imager.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

The Epervier has now been replaced by the IAI Hunter, which was obtained by the Belgian military with Belgian-specified systems.

BACK_TO_TOP

[9.2] ITALIAN METEOR UAVS

* Italy's Meteor company, discussed in a previous chapter as a maker of target drones, has developed a series of battlefield UAVs for the Italian Army. The "Mirach 20" combat surveillance UAV led to the similar but improved "Mirach 26", and Meteor is considering a next-generation combat surveillance UAV called the "Falcon" as a follow-on.

The Mirach 26 is of typical twin-boom pusher-prop battlefield surveillance UAV configuration. It is very similar to the older Mirach 20 in appearance but slightly bigger, the most visible difference being that the Mirach 26 has antenna disks on the top of the tailfins. It is powered by a 20 kW (26 horsepower) Sachs piston engine.

   METEOR MIRACH 26:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                4.73 meters         15 feet 6 inches
   length                  3.85 meters         12 feet 8 inches
   height                  1.27 meters         4 feet 2 inches
   payload weight          50 kilograms        110 pounds
   takeoff weight          200 kilograms       440 pounds

   maximum speed           220 KPH             138 MPH / 120 KT
   service ceiling         3,500 meters        11,480 feet
   endurance               > 6 hours

   launch scheme           RATO booster.
   recovery scheme         Parachute.
   payload                 Day / night imager.
   guidance system         Programmable with GPS, radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

Meteor has collaborated with Pacific Aerosystems INC (PAI) in the US, which has sold a version of the Meteor Mirach 20 in the US as the "PAI Heron".

* Meteor has also developed a longer-range turbojet tactical reconnaissance UAV, designated the "Mirach 150". It is apparently a derivative of the Mirach 100 series of targets, being of the same general size and also powered by a Microturbo TRS-18-1 turbojet.

   METEOR MIRACH 150:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                2.1 meters          6 feet 11 inches
   length                  4.7 meters          15 feet 5 inches
   launch weight           345 kilograms       760 pounds

   maximum speed           855 KPH             530 MPH / 460 KT
   service ceiling         9,150 meters        30,000 feet
   endurance               1.3 hours

   launch scheme           RATO booster.
   recovery scheme         Parachute.
   payload                 Day / night imager, SAR, or EW module.
   guidance system         Programmable with GPS, radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

Meteor is now promoting a new derivative of the Meteor 150, named the "Nibbio", for tactical reconnaissance and other missions. Details are unclear, and in any case the Nibbio isn't expected to be flown until into 2003.

BACK_TO_TOP

[9.3] BRITISH BAE SYSTEMS PHOENIX / WATCHKEEPER

* The British Army has had as much or more trouble fielding a tactical UAV as the US Army, but has finally settled on a solution, the BAE Systems Phoenix. First flight was in 1986, but introduction of the Phoenix was painfully delayed, the type finally seeing limited action in the Kosovo campaign in 1999.

The Phoenix is a fairly typical combat surveillance UAV, powered by a 20 kW (26 horsepower) piston engine, but is distinctive, in that it is a "tractor" aircraft, with the propeller in the front. This tends to obstruct a sensor turret, and so the sensor payload, built around an infrared imager, is carried in a pod slung well under the fuselage. The Phoenix is recovered by parachute, landing on its back, with a crushable "hump" on the back taking up the impact. The Phoenix is mostly made of Kevlar and other plastics.

   BAE SYSTEMS PHOENIX:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                5.6 meters          18 feet
   payload weight          50 kilograms        110 pounds
   launch weight           175 kilograms       386 pounds
   maximum speed           166 KPH             104 MPH / 90 KT
   service ceiling         2,750 meters        9,000 feet
   endurance               5 hours

   launch scheme           Pneumatic / hydraulic catapult.
   recovery scheme         Parachute.
   payload                 Infrared imager.
   guidance system         Programmable with GPS, radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

The Phoenix has not been entirely satisfactory. Following the long delays in developing the system, it has also suffered a high attrition rate in operation. Britain is now working on a next-generation UAV specification under the "Watchkeeper" program. A request for proposals was issued early in 2002, with a contract to be awarded in early 2004. While a detailed request hasn't been issued yet,

The Watchkeeper requirement specifies a mid-range UAV carrying SAR and EO-IR sensors, and a small UAV with an EO-IR payload. Current thinking envisions Watchkeeper going into service in 2006.

BACK_TO_TOP

[9.4] SWISS OERLIKON RANGER

* The Swiss Oerlikon Ranger is another reasonably typical combat surveillance UAV, with a twin-boom pusher-prop configuration, though it is slightly unusual in that it has both a low-mounted wing and horizontal tailplane. It is powered by a 32 kW (42 horsepower) piston engine.

It was developed by IAI Malat to Swiss specifications, modifying Israeli technology to the European field environment. It is unclear if Oerlikon actually manufactures the Ranger in part or full, or if the company simply provides marketing and support. It would seem that the Ranger is probably built in Israel, as Malat also markets the UAV internationally. The Ranger has entered service with the Swiss Army, and is also being obtained by Finland.

   OERLIKON RANGER:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________


   wingspan                5.7 meters          18 feet 8 inches
   length                  4.6 meters          15 feet 1 inches
   height                  1.13 meters         3 feet 7 inches
   payload weight          39 kilograms        86 pounds
   launch weight           270 kilograms       595 pounds

   maximum speed           220 KPH             137 MPH / 119 KT
   service ceiling         4,575 meters        15,000 feet
   endurance               5 hours

   launch scheme           Hydraulic catapult.
   recovery scheme         Wheel or skid landing with hook, parachute.
   payloads                Day / night imager, with laser designator.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

BACK_TO_TOP

[9.5] GERMAN EURODRONE BREVEL / ATN TAIFUN & LUNA

* Eurodrone, a collaboration of the Anglo-French Matra BAE Dynamics and the German STN Atlas Electronik companies, has been working on a small piston-powered battlefield drone known as the "Brevel" or "Kleinflugeraet Fuer Zielortung (KZO)" since 1980. First flight was in 1995.

The Brevel is a delta-winged UAV, with a pusher propeller driven by a small piston engine, and disk-shaped antenna on top of the tail. It has "stealthy" features.

   EURODRONE BREVEL:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                3.4 meters          11 feet 2 inches
   length                  2.26 meters         7 feet 5 inches
   height                  0.9 meters          3 feet
   max loaded weight       150 kilograms       331 pounds

   maximum speed           250 KPH             155 MPH / 135 KT
   service ceiling         4,000 meters        13,120 feet
   endurance               4 hours

   launch scheme           RATO booster.
   recovery scheme         Parachute with airbag landing system.
   payload                 Day / night imager.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

Service introduction of the Brevel has been long delayed, and the French pulled out of the project, with a French official bluntly stating: "The military requirement for this drone ceased to be relevant ten years ago." The German Defense Ministry still maintains that the program is needed. Eurodrone builds a similar but non-stealthy variant of the Brevel named the "Tucan" for export and possible commercial applications.

* The German Army is acquiring another tactical UAV from STN Atlas, the "Taifun" attack drone, to go into service in 2005. The Taifun is similar to the Brevel, being a piston-powered UAV with a pusher propeller, and is fitted with an intelligent millimeter-wave radar seeker that perform search and destroy attacks autonomously. It destroys its target with a hollow-charge warhead. The company also is working on a jamming drone, the "Muecke", which is presumably similar, but details are unclear.

In addition, STN Atlas is building a mini-UAV named "Luna". It resembles a sleek RC airplane with a pusher propeller mounted above the wing, and is powered by a 4.5 kW (6 horsepower) piston engine. The Luna was evaluated by the German Army in the Balkans in 2001.

   ATN LUNA:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                3.98 meters         13 feet 1 inch
   length                  2.04 meters         6 feet 8 inches
   launch weight           20 kilograms        44 pounds

   maximum speed           190 KPH             120 MPH / 104 KT
   service ceiling         2,740 meters        9,000 feet
   endurance               4 hours 

   launch scheme           Bungee catapult.
   recovery scheme         Parachute or parafoil.
   payload                 Day / night imager.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

BACK_TO_TOP

[9.6] AUSTRIAN SCHIEBEL CAMCOPTER

* Schiebel of Austria has developed a helicopter mini-UAV named the "Camcopter", which was evaluated the US Air Force as part of studies in developing improved defenses from terrorist attacks on military installations. It was purchased by the Iranians, officially to help clear minefields, but has apparently also been used for patrolling Iran's border with Afghanistan.

The Camcopter has a conventional main-tail rotor helicopter configuration, with twin-blade main rotor. It used an 11 kW (15 horsepower) two-stroke piston engine.

   SCHIEBEL CAMCOPTER:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   rotor diameter          3.09 meters         9 feet 11 inches
   length                  2.68 meters         8 feet 10 inches
   empty weight            43 kilograms        95 pounds
   launch weight           68 kilograms        150 pounds

   maximum speed           90 KPH              56 MPH / 49 KT
   service ceiling         3,000 meters        9,840 feet
   endurance               6 hours

   payload                 Day / night imager.
   guidance system         Programmable with GPS, radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

BACK_TO_TOP

[9.7] RUSSIAN YAK-61 SHMEL / KAMOV KA-37

* The Russian Army fielded a tactical UAV, the Yakovlev "Yak-60", in the early 1980s. This machine had a pusher prop in a duct, a high wing, and an inverted vee tail. It was used for daylight reconnaissance and jamming.

The Yak-60 is now out of first-line service, having been replaced by the improved Yakovlev "Yak-61 Shmel (Bumblebee)", also known as the "Pchelka 1T". The Shmel has a nose-mounted sensor turret; a pusher prop in a duct, powered by a small piston engine; a top-mounted wing in the rear, and a fixed landing-gear scheme whose struts seem to be designed as airfoils. It has been in service since 1994, and is believed to have seen extensive service in the Chechnya conflict.

   YAKOVLEV YAK-61 SHMEL:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                3.23 meters         10 feet 7 inches
   length                  2.77 meters         9 feet 1 inch
   launch weight           129 kilograms       285 pounds

   maximum speed           140 KPH             87 MPH / 76 KT
   service ceiling         2,900 meters        9,480 feet
   endurance               2 hours

   launch scheme           Catapult.
   recovery scheme         Parachute.
   payload                 Day / night imager.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

Yakovlev is currently working on two new tactical UAVs, the "Albatros" and the "Expert". The Albatros is a tiltrotor design along the lines of the Boeing Eagle Eye, except that it has an inverted-vee tail. It will have a 120 kW (160 horsepower) engine, seven-hour endurance, and a 100 kilometer (60 mile) range, with the range limited by the command-data radio link. It is primarily focused on shipboard applications.

Details of the Expert are unclear, but it appears to be a small battlefield surveillance UAV, of the sort usually launched by a bungee catapult.

* The Russian Kamov helicopter OKB (design bureau) has also built a tactical UAV, the Kamov "Ka-137". Kamov has produced a number of different manned helicopter designs since the 1940s, focusing on the "coaxial" rotor configuration, with twin rotors spinning in opposite directions on the same shaft.

Kamov flew Russia's first unmanned helicopter, the Ka-37, in 1993, after developing the UAV with their own funds. The "Ka-37" looked like a scaled-down version of a Kamov manned helicopter, with the coaxial rotor configuration and a tailboom with fins. The Ka-37 was apparently sold in some numbers for agricultural applications, and led to an improved "Ka-37S" prototype in 1996 that featured a new engine.

The Ka-137 is a next-generation follow-on to the Ka-37, and has been substantially redesigned. The Ka-137 is an endearingly toylike machine, somewhat in a class with the Canadair CL-227, with a ball-shaped body, four landing legs, and a coaxial rotor system powered by a 49 kW (65 horsepower) piston engine. It can carry a TV imaging system, and can be operated using a truck-based support and control system. The Ka-137 is currently in use with Russian border guards and possibly Russian coast guard patrol boats.

   KAMOV KA-137:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   rotor width             5.3 meters          17 feet 5 inches
   body diameter           1.22 meters         3 feet 11 inches
   max loaded weight       280 kilograms       617 pounds

   maximum speed           175 KPH             110 MPH / 95 KT
   service ceiling         3,500 meters        11,500 feet
   endurance               4 hours
   
   payload                 Day / night imager.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

BACK_TO_TOP

[9.8] MISCELLANEOUS BATTLEFIELD UAVS

* Many other tactical UAVs have been built around the world, though finding out details of them is difficult. For example, following South African evaluation of a Malat Scout in the late 1970s, in the early 1980s Kentron built a relatively large combat surveillance UAV, the "Seeker", of conventional twin-boom pusher-prop configuration, with a 38 kW (50 horsepower) engine. It was apparently developed with Israeli assistance, and entered service in 1987. It has been used for border patrol and police operations, and has been purchased by the Chilean army.

   KENTRON SEEKER:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                7 meters            23 feet
   length                  4.43 meters         14 feet 6 inches
   height                  1.30 meters         4 feet 4 inches
   payload weight          40 kilograms        88 pounds
   empty weight            155 kilograms       342 pounds
   launch weight           255 kilograms       562 pounds

   maximum speed           220 KPH             138 MPH / 120 KT
   service ceiling         5,400 meters        18,000 feet
   endurance               > 12 hours

   launch scheme           Conventional runway takeoff.
   recovery scheme         Conventional landing with hook.
   payload                 Day / night imager or other payload.
   guidance system         Programmable with radio control backup.
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

Kentron also makes a loitering antiradar attack drone, named the "Lark". Details are hard to find, but it has a very close resemblance to the IAI / MBD Harpy, and it's a good bet it's leveraged from Israeli technology.

* India has developed a tactical UAV named the "Nishant". Details are unclear, but it appears to be in the same class as the IAI Malat Searcher, and is apparently being developed with Israeli help. It has not reached full operational status, and for the time being the Indian Army has been making do with IAI UAVs, apparently the Searcher and the Hunter.

Although it isn't really a battlefield UAV, India has also developed a UAV named the "Lakshya" that is used as a target, medium-range reconnaissance UAV, and supposedly even a cruise missile. The Lakshya looks like a near-clone of the Beech Streaker.

* Not to be outdone, India's rival Pakistan has also developed a number of battlefield UAVs. Pakistan's "Air Weapons Complex (AWC)" has completed development of their "Bravo" battlefield surveillance UAV, and is now in service with law enforcement and border security organizations.

The Bravo is apparently a fairly conventional piston-powered small battlefield UAV, has a composite airframe, a maximum payload of 20 kilograms (44 pounds), and a radius of action of up to 80 kilometers (50 miles). It is guided by a preprogrammed navigation system.

The "Vision-1" is an improved version of the Bravo, with a more powerful engine and a payload of up to 25 kilograms (55 pounds). It can carry day-night imagers or an ELINT payload.

The AWC also makes a high-altitude reconnaissance drone, the "Vector", and two target drones, the "Nishan" and the "Hornet". The Vector is only now going into production. It has a wingspan of over 7 meters (23 feet) and can carry a 25 kilogram payload. The Nishan is a delta-winged target drone, apparently in the class of the Meggitt Banshee, and also can be used as a decoy. The Hornet has the configuration of a small piston-engine target drone.

* Croatia has fielded a series of tactical UAVs, beginning with the MAH-1, which are said to strongly resemble IAI Malat tactical UAVs and were likely developed with Israeli assistance.

BACK_TO_TOP


< Prev | Next > | Index | Home | SiteMap | SiteSearch | Links | Updates | Email Comments