The French army will acquire 14 Patroller unmanned aircraft, manufacturer Sagem announced. The Patroller will replace the Sagem Sperwer tactical drone the French army’s 61st Artillery Regiment uses starting in 2018.
Sagem was announced as the winner of France’s tactical drone system program on April 5, during a visit by Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to the company’s plant in Montluçon. France’s defense procurement agency DGA chose the Patroller over Thales’s Watchkeeper platform. Fourteen aircraft are funded in the military’s spending bill for 2014-2019, Sagem said.
Based on the ES-15 airframe supplied by Ecarys, a division of German sports aircraft manufacturer Stemme AG, the Patroller has an operating ceiling of 20,000 feet, 20 hours’ endurance and 250 kg payload capacity. A gyrostabilized optronic pod is mounted under the aircraft’s forward fuselage, and it can also carry radar and signals intelligence payloads.
Sagem, a Safran group subsidiary, serves as prime contractor for the French tactical drone system program, leading a consortium of 25 high-tech companies called the “Patroller Cluster.” Sagem expects the program will support 300 jobs in France.
“Building on Sagem’s 25 years of experience in making tactical drones, the selection of the Patroller confirms French industry’s leading position in the European surveillance drone market,” said Philippe Petitcolin, Safran CEO. “Our teams are ready to meet this challenge, and they will be worthy of the trust placed in us by the country.”
Sagem CEO Martin Sion said the defense ministry’s choice of the Patroller gives his company “a major advantage in seizing export opportunities for surveillance drones.” Several other countries have expressed interest in the Patroller, “especially in Asia and the Middle East,” he added.