A Qinetiq-led team has been selected to provide unmanned rotary-wing services to the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Special Forces Command under a $51 million ($38 million U.S.) deal. UAV services provider Canadian UAVs will also be involved, facilitating the delivery of the aircraft to the domestic armed forces under this ISTAR program, and deliveries of the system are set to begin in this year's third quarter.
The team will deliver UMS Skeldar’s V-200 rotary platform integrated with an L3 Wescam electro-optical/infrared turret and Leonardo PicoSAR radar for the navy under a contractor-owned, contractor-operated model, and with an undisclosed payload configuration under a contractor-owned, military-operated model for the special forces. The systems will be provided over three years, and the company holds options for three more.
“There was a close collaboration between the companies,” David Willems, business development lead for UMS Skeldar, told AIN. “A heavy fuel engine was important criteria for the program, as well as collaboration with different companies. We had a very compelling offer.”
Qinetiq acquired Meggitt Target Systems and its Canadian foothold in Medicine Hat, Alberta in 2016 and teamed with UMS Skeldar in 2018 to bid for this program. The Canadian content was a key requirement in the navy’s selection, ensuring that there were benefits for domestic industry. The team competed with a Schiebel/MDA team that was offering the former’s Camcopter S-100 for the contract.
This contract will result in Wescam delivering its MX-series of electro-optical/infrared turrets to the Canadian navy for the first time, as well as representing the first order for the MX-8 and MX-10D in Canada and the first contract the company has with Qinetiq in the country. The active electronically scanned array PicoSAR, meanwhile, will provide an all-weather high-resolution synthetic aperture radar imaging and ground moving target indication capability, which has been offered as a complementary payload for the UAV for a number of years.
Willems says that this is the first NATO navy that has acquired a rotary-wing UAV for vessel-based services, a feat for the team, as well as a recognized trend in naval operations. “This is the way these operations are going,” he said. “There is definitely a worldwide discussion about this going on, and there is also a need for NATO members to reduce the footprint of UAVs onboard.”
It has been recognized that both manned and unmanned platforms will be utilized for vessel-based operations as requirements evolve, so real estate for integration of both types of aircraft is being vied for. The less space that a system can take—a VTOL system generally takes up less room than a fixed-wing one—the more appealing it is to navies. For the Royal Canadian Navy, Skeldar will be operated from a frigate, while the special operations requirements are undisclosed.
UMS Skeldar has leveraged its experience in being selected for the German navy’s vessel-based surveillance UAV program, through which the V-200 will be delivered by Q4 of this year for integration on the service’s new K130 corvettes. This was the first notable selection by a NATO navy of a vessel-based rotary-wing UAV in this size category, which Willems said is helping guide other nations with similar naval requirements to consider this type of integration onboard their ships.