CATS gets off to flying start

 - July 12, 2008, 3:52 AM

Since April 1 a new service managed by QinetiQ has met the UK’s aerial target requirements. Known as the combined aerial target service, or CATS, the new arrangement streamlines the provision of target facilities to UK forces, providing cost savings and greater flexibility.

QinetiQ is the prime contractor and acts as an independent service integrator for the 20-year contract. CATS is overseen from Boscombe Down, UK, with principal facilities to support the weapon ranges at Aberporth and Manorbier in Wales, and the Hebrides range in the Scottish Isles. However, the target fleet is available for worldwide deployment, including aboard ships for at-sea firings, and detachments to overseas test ranges.

CATS employs three main target types filling advanced, intermediate and basic requirements. The advanced Selex Mirach 100/5 offers high subsonic performance and can be equipped with a variety of signature enhancing measures, as well as two air-launched Locusta sub-targets. The Mirach is based at Aberporth, but is also used regularly at the Hebrides range. It is mainly employed for air-to-air and surface-to-air missile engagements.

Filling the intermediate target slot is Meggitt’s new Voodoo target, with the fleet managed by the Hebrides facility. Manorbier hosts the Meggitt Banshee basic target fleet, which is primarily used in a ground-based air defense environment.
Complementing the flying targets is the pop-up helicopter, a mock-up of a “Hind” mounted on a 40-foot extending gantry. Pop-ups are deployed at the BATUS training ground in Canada.

Having taken over the target services of the individual services, replacing units such as the Navy’s 792 Squadron, QinetiQ undertook its first launch as part of the CATS contract on April 7, when a Banshee was launched in the Falkland Islands. By next June CATS aims to have 100 targets and 14 systems available.