Saab’s Skeldar V-200 unmanned air system (UAS) has been undertaking anti-piracy patrols in the troubled waters off the Horn of Africa and southern Arabia. The rotary-wing, heavy fuel engine UAS has been flying from the Spanish navy offshore patrol vessel (OPV) BAM Meteoro, operating in concert with a manned helicopter to support the European Union’s Naval Force Somalia (also known as Operation Atalanta) anti-piracy mission. Saab earlier this year announced a contract to “deploy the Skeldar UAS for maritime operations,” but at the time did not name the customer.
Spain is employing the Skeldar under a service provision agreement with Saab. The operation is seen by the Armada Española as completing the first phase of a process to procure a UAS for shipborne use. Experience from the Skeldar deployment will feed directly into acquisition decision-making.
Prior to its operational deployment, the Skeldar system underwent integration trials aboard Meteoro’s sister-ship, BAM Relámpago. The trials took place off the Canary Islands, and were completed in late August. The Skeldar system was then transported to Djibouti, where it embarked on the Meteoro on September 10.
Meteoro is the first of a class of four modular OPVs that can support helicopters of up to NH90-size. The vessel left its homeport of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands in July to begin initial operations in the internationally recommended transfer corridor in the Gulf of Aden. Operations were subsequently widened to include identification and recognition patrols along Somalia’s north and east coasts. The vessel has visited Salalah (Oman) and Fujairah (UAE) as part of the EU Naval Force’s engagement with regional states, as well as Djibouti. The vessel is due to return home in December after replacement on Atalanta duties by BAM Tornado.