Companies in both the U.S. and Europe are forging ahead with technology demonstrations for unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV), but the military has yet to establish exactly what it wants from its future UCAVS. While this question remains unanswered, the development of production UCAVs will be delayed and budgets withheld.
Having flown for the first time on May 29, Alenia Aeronautica’s Sky-X unmanned technology demonstrator is making its debut at the Dubai show, appearing in the static display. The Italian group is also hoping to attract regional orders for its C-27J transport, and ATR 42MP and ATR 72ASW maritime patrol platforms, models of which are on display at its stand (C301).
FLIR Systems is showcasing three new compact multi-sensor systems developed to maintain the company’s position as a leader in this field. Each is a derivative of an earlier model but incorporates an advance in technology that results in improved performance.
Saab’s stealthy unmanned FILUR demonstrator has now flown, revealed deputy CEO Ingmar Anderssen yesterday at the Dubai show. The event is a major milestone for Sweden’s UAV research program, which will be used in the design of future air vehicles and feed data into the major Neuron program.
With the air war in Iraq increasingly dominated by close-air support (CAS) operations and the need to engage rapidly emerging targets in heavily populated areas, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles armed with precision weapons has also increased. Before and during Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Air Force Predator UAVs routinely carried weapons, and the practice has now become an everyday part of U.S. military operations.
EDO Corp. (Stand ADT 117) is to provide a weapon carriage and release system for the U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Predator B unmanned aircraft. The initial design and development contract from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is worth just $1.4 million, but EDO noted that it plans production of “well over” 100 Predator Bs.
Singapore Technologies Aerospace is seeking local or overseas partners for unmanned systems development. “We want to be a world-class niche player in this business, as we have become in the MRO field,” said Dr. Tan Jiak Kwang, the company’s director for advanced systems. Tan spoke at the Unmanned Systems Asia-Pacific 2006 conference. in Singapore on Sunday
The UK Ministry of Defence is preparing to issue an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) for an unmanned aerial surveillance system to help British troops fight Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. Some–maybe all–of the likely contending systems are on display here.
In November the UK Royal Air Force’s UAV Battlelab plans to integrate an unmanned air vehicle into a military exercise for the first time, as part of Project Sabrina. An earlier attempt in June was cancelled due to technical difficulties, but the Battlelab is optimistic that the UAV’s participation in the next Combined Qualified Weapons Instructor (CQWI) exercise will go ahead.
The key technologies being investigated in the current UCAV programs are advanced flight control for tail-less, blended-wing-body configurations; autonomous operation using reconfigurable software; open architecture avionics; secure datalinks; low-cost composite construction; and low observability (for example, stealth).