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9 septembre 2011 5 09 /09 /septembre /2011 11:55
Watchkeeper flies to new endurance record

Photo Thales UK


09/09/11 By Craig Hoyle SOURCE:Flight International


Operational trials with the British Army's Watchkeeper unmanned air system (UAS) remain on track to start next month, after the WK450 air vehicle has set a new endurance record in testing.


Maj Matt Moore, SO2 UAS for headquarters, Royal Artillery, said a WK450 completed an almost 14h flight in early September from West Wales airport.


With current approvals restricting test flights to daylight hours only, the aircraft landed with around 4h of fuel remaining, he said.


During the record-breaking UK flight, the aircraft's dual mission payload of an Elop Compass IV electro-optical/infrared camera and Thales I-Master/Viper synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indication sensor were employed, along with its data link.


 The WK450's dual mission payloads, data link and software were tested during the record-breaking sortie


The UAS was also taken to its 16,000ft (4,880m) service ceiling and 115km (62nm) away from the airport, Moore told the UK Air Warfare Centre's remotely piloted air systems symposium in Shrivenham, Wiltshire, on 8 September. The aircraft also flew using its operational-standard software, prime contractor Thales UK said.


Operational trials with the Watchkeeper will be conducted in October and November, with the first training flights over Salisbury Plain to be made from the Ministry of Defence/Qinetiq Boscombe Down site in Wiltshire in December.


Watchkeeper vehicles and equipment will be deployed to Afghanistan from late this year, to deliver one daily "task line" from the first quarter of 2012. A full service using six task lines should be in place within 12 months, Moore said.


In addition to continuing flight testing, other Watchkeeper activities currently include preparing modifications - such as the addition of covert lighting - for deployment in Afghanistan, Moore said.


Development testing with the WK450 has now passed 230 flights and 320h in the UK and Israel.


Thales UK/Elbit Systems joint venture Utacs is responsible for delivering the Watchkeeper system, which will replace an interim service in Afghanistan currently using leased Elbit Hermes 450s.


The service has delivered 50,000h of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance services for the British Army since April 2007.

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8 septembre 2011 4 08 /09 /septembre /2011 18:00
EADS ne participera pas au projet de drone Telemos (màj1)

Talarion - source aeroplans.fr


08/09/2011 Les Echos Reuters


EADS ne souhaite pas rejoindre le programme franco-britannique de drone Telemos, qu'il s'efforce de concurrencer avec son propre drone Talarion, a déclaré jeudi un porte-parole du groupe.


Cette déclaration répond à des rumeurs qui annonçaient l'entrée d'EADS dans ce programme binational, après un article paru dans Le Monde, dans lequel Louis Gallois, président exécutif d'EADS, jugeait qu'une coopération de seulement deux pays n'était pas suffisante pour un programme de drone.


"Avec le Talarion, qui est en avance de cinq ans par rapport aux autres concurrents européens, nous sommes prêts pour la compétition", a dit le porte-parole.


Le projet Telemos rassemble le britannique BAE Systems et le français Dassault Aviation.


Les deux groupes envisagent de faire voler en 2016 le premier prototype de cette nouvelle génération de drones, développée dans le cadre de l'accord de coopération franco-britannique de novembre 2010.


Le porte-parole d'EADS a par ailleurs de nouveau mis en garde l'Europe contre le risque de lancer deux programmes de drones concurrents, en pleine période de réduction budgétaire.


A plusieurs reprises le groupe aérospatial européen avait en effet prévenu que l'Europe se devait d'éviter de répéter le scénario d'un affrontement sur les marchés à l'exportation, comme ce fut le cas pour les avions de combat Rafale et Eurofighter.


L'Etat français détient directement 15% d'EADS, 30% de Safran et 27% de Thales, les deux derniers étant susceptibles de jouer un rôle dans le projet de drone de Dassault Aviation et BAE. De son côté, Dassault Aviation est détenu à 46% par EADS.

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19 août 2011 5 19 /08 /août /2011 05:30


NATO AGS - photo Northrop Grumman


18/08/11 By Stephen Trimble SOURCE:Flight Daily News


Canada has become the second country to withdraw from the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 alliance ground surveillance (AGS) program, but the remaining NATO partners are "very close" to signing a contract, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.


The decision means AGS will lose another source of funding that must be compensated for by the 13 NATO members still committed.


In June, Canadian TV broadcaster CBC reported that Canada also is withdrawing from the NATO partnership operating the E-3 airborne warning and control system (AWACS).


The AGS program had lost another key partner last June. Denmark also decided to withdraw from the partnership acquiring a six-aircraft RQ-4 fleet in June 2010.


Meanwhile, Northrop and NATO officials are likely to sign a contract to launch the development phase of the AGS programme within several days. The contract award may still have to be approved by each of the national partners before it becomes official.


Previously, Northrop officials had predicted that the long-awaited contract award milestone might not be reached around October.


Northrop is offering to deliver six RQ-4 air vehicles configured with the US Air Force's Block 40 equipment, which includes a wide area surveillance sensor called the Northrop/Raytheon multi-platform radar technology insertion program. It will perform the same role as the USAF E-8C joint surveillance target attack radar system.


European partners, including EADS, will supply mobile ground control stations for the NATO RQ-4 fleet, which will be based at Sigonella AB, Sicily.

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6 juillet 2011 3 06 /07 /juillet /2011 07:20


source defense.gouv.fr


2011-07-05 (China Military News cited from washingtonpost.com and written by William Wan and Peter Finn)


At the most recent Zhuhai air show, the premier event for China’s aviation industry, crowds swarmed around a model of an armed, jet-propelled drone and marveled at the accompanying display of its purported martial prowess.


In a video and map, the thin, sleek drone locates what appears to be a U.S. aircraft carrier group near an island with a striking resemblance to Taiwan and sends targeting information back to shore, triggering a devastating barrage of cruise missiles toward the formation of ships.


Little is known about the actual abilities of the WJ-600 drone or the more than two dozen other Chinese models that were on display at Zhuhai in November. But the speed at which they have been developed highlights how U.S. military successes with drones have changed strategic thinking worldwide and spurred a global rush for unmanned aircraft.


More than 50 countries have purchased surveillance drones, and many have started in-country development programs for armed versions because no nation is exporting weaponized drones beyond a handful of sales between the United States and its closest allies.


“This is the direction all aviation is going,” said Kenneth Anderson, a professor of law at American University who studies the legal questions surrounding the use of drones in warfare. “Everybody will wind up using this technology because it’s going to become the standard for many, many applications of what are now manned aircraft.”


Military planners worldwide see drones as relatively cheap weapons and highly effective reconnaissance tools. Hand-launched ones used by ground troops can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Near the top of the line, the Predator B, or MQ9-Reaper, manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, costs about $10.5 million. By comparison, a single F-22 fighter jet costs about $150 million.


Defense spending on drones has become the most dynamic sector of the world’s aerospace industry, according to a report by the Teal Group in Fairfax. The group’s 2011 market study estimated that in the coming decade global spending on drones will double, reaching $94 billion.


But the world’s expanding drone fleets — and the push to weaponize them — have alarmed some academics and peace activists, who argue that robotic warfare raises profound questions about the rules of engagement and the protection of civilians, and could encourage conflicts.


“They could reduce the threshold for going to war,” said Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield in England. “One of the great inhibitors of war is the body bag count, but that is undermined by the idea of riskless war.”


China on fast track


No country has ramped up its research in recent years faster than China. It displayed a drone model for the first time at the Zhuhai air show five years ago, but now every major manufacturer for the Chinese military has a research center devoted to drones, according to Chinese analysts.


Much of this work remains secret, but the large number of drones at recent exhibitions underlines not only China’s determination to catch up in that sector — by building equivalents to the leading U.S. combat and surveillance models, the Predator and the Global Hawk — but also its desire to sell this technology abroad.


Original Full Article

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22 juin 2011 3 22 /06 /juin /2011 20:05
EADS: nouvel accord de coopération avec TAI


22 juin 2011 CercleFinance.com


EADS a signé, via ses divisions Cassidian et Astrium, un protocole d'accord en vue d'une coopération avec Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), dans le cadre du salon du Bourget.


Cet accord concerne des activités en Turquie, en Allemagne, en France, au Royaume Uni et en Espagne. Il porte notamment sur l'étude d'opportunités de collaboration dans le domaine des véhicules aériens sans pilotes (programmes UAV).


Pour rappel, un autre accord avait été signé le mois dernier à Istanbul entre Cassidian et TAI pour coopérer sur le programme de drone Talarion.

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22 juin 2011 3 22 /06 /juin /2011 11:40



21.06.2011 By VMSB – DEFESA Global


At the Paris Air Show 2011 event being held near Paris, France, two Portuguese companies are displaying small and lightweight unmanned aircraft systems.


Tekever ASDS Lda presents the AR4 Light Ray. The system is designed to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support to ground military units when in operations. The man-portable fixed wing unmanned aircraft system provides real time day and night imagery. It can perform surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition, communications tasks. The system could be as well used as a communications relay node. A ground based mobile ruggedized command and control terminal is used to operate the unmanned system.


AR4 Light Ray has a wingspan of 1, 80 meters, a length of 1,40 meters, a range of up to 20 km, a top speed of 55 km/h, a payload of 5 kg and an autonomy of 2 hours or 3 hours with extra powerpack.


UAVision-Engenharia de Sistemas Lda has displayed the U4-400 and the U6-200 small rotary unmanned aircraft systems.


The U4-400 platform can be used in several applications such as control of pests and diseases in agricultural crops, prevention and monitoring of forest fires, inspections of bridges and power lines, support search operation in case of disasters and as well as urban day/night surveillance.


A single U4-400 has been delivered to the Angolan police and additional units could be ordered.


The U6-200 development is to be completed in six months. This system will be mainly operated in the broadcasting industry.





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22 juin 2011 3 22 /06 /juin /2011 11:25



22.06.2011 par P. CHAPLEAU Lignes de Défense


Le Salon du Bourget bat son plein et l'on y parle beaucoup de drones. Ainsi, le projet de drone de combat européen est sorti des limbes au premier jour du Salon avec l'annonce par le ministre français de la Défense de la probable formation, dès cet été, d'une équipe commune franco-britannique de militaires chargés de l'esquisser.


L'armée de l'air française qui ne dispose que de quatre exemplaires de l'Harfang (voir la photo ci-dessus prise à Bagram), plaide pour un achat de Reaper et la France, dans un premier temps, a effectivement envisagé de recourir à cette solution. Une mission de la Direction générale de l'armement a même été dépêchée aux Etats-Unis pour entamer des disussions avec General Atomics, fabricant du Reaper et du célèbre Predator.

Gérard Longuet estime cependant qu'il n'y a pas réellement d'urgence opérationnelle faisant valoir que cette lacune capacitaire française était comblée en Afghanistan par la "mutualisation des moyens" alliés.

Le point sur ce dossier avec Bertrand Slaski, consultant senior à CEIS.


- Quels sont les besoins actuels et à venir de l'armée française ? Il y a les besoins connus et admis, et ceux qui pourraient s'imposer (drone de surveillance maritime, par ex)?


Avant de parler des drones, qui ne sont pas une fin en soi, il parait nécessaire de revenir rapidement sur les besoins militaires auxquels ils répondent. En effet, les drones ne sont que des moyens parmi d'autres, aussi performants et modernes soient-ils, qui sont utilisés au profit du succès de la mission. Ce n'est qu'en ce sens que la technologie est utile aux militaires.  


Aujourd'hui, face à un ennemi sans uniforme, très mobile, maitrisant son environnement géographique et agissant au milieu de civils, les forces armées opèrent dans des conditions particulièrement difficiles. C'est le cas en Afghanistan et c'est ce qui rend d'ailleurs délicates les opérations aériennes entreprises en Libye.


Afin de reprendre l'initiative de la manœuvre et la maitrise du tempo opérationnel, les forces armées doivent avoir en permanence la meilleure connaissance qui soit de leur environnement. La mise en œuvre de drones répond de manière significative à ce besoin qui est généralement désigné par l'acronyme anglo-saxon ISR pour Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance.


Ainsi, grâce aux données que les drones fournissent aux forces en temps réel et en quasi-permanence, notamment aux troupes au sol, celles-ci peuvent non seulement adapter plus rapidement leur posture, selon l'évolution de la menace qu'elles rencontrent, mais aussi les effets à délivrer (ex. : démonstration de force, emploi de moyens de coercition). 


Actuellement, les drones en service au sein des forces armées françaises sont le Tracker (DRAC), le Sperwer (SDTI) et l'Harfang (SIDM). Les deux premiers, respectivement un mini drone d'EADS (Cassidian) et un drone tactique de Safran (Sagem), sont mis en œuvre par l'armée de terre. L'Harfang, qui est un drone MALE (Moyenne Altitude Longue Endurance) d'EADS (Cassidian), est quant à lui opéré par l'armée de l'air. Chose assez exceptionnelle pour être soulignée, il s'agit d'un drone intérimaire et non d'un système produit en série.     


Comme les avions traditionnels, c'est-à-dire ayant un pilote à bord, les drones se distinguent par leurs dimensions. Celles-ci ont un effet direct sur leurs performances : plus un drone est de taille importante, plus il est endurant et plus il emporte de systèmes différents, complexes et de charges utiles complémentaires, sans compter l'énergie nécessaire à son temps de vol et à alimenter les équipements embarqués. 


Par exemple, le drone Tracker, qui est lancé à la main, sert au chef d'unité afin de voir « derrière la colline » (sa portée est de ~10Km et son autonomie de ~2H). Il s'agit ici de pouvoir reconnaitre ponctuellement un axe ou une zone, ou encore d'observer des individus. Pour sa part, l'Harfang décolle à partir d'une piste et couvre des zones nettement plus importantes, avec un rayon d'action de l'ordre de 1 700 km et plus d'une dizaine d'heures d'autonomie. Grâce à sa liaison satellitaire, il transmet en temps réel et de manière simultanée les données qu'il recueille à des abonnés localisés dans  différentes régions du monde.   


Le retour d'expérience montre que le besoin porte d'abord sur des drones disposant de charges utiles complémentaires, l'idée étant toujours de permettre aux forces armées de mieux connaitre leur environnement et de pouvoir réagir en conséquence, et de la manière la plus adaptée qui soit.


L'un des besoins le plus souvent cité est la nécessité de disposer de charges utiles de guerre électronique pour accélérer la localisation de zones ou de personnes d'intérêt. Une fois cette localisation faite, un capteur vidéo peut alors prendre le relais afin de confirmer l'intérêt ou non d'une activité suspecte.


En Afghanistan, il est évident qu'un homme armé, observant la progression d'une unité amie, n'est pas forcément un taliban. En revanche, si ce même homme communique sur ce qu'il observe par radio ou téléphone, il devra faire l'objet d'une attention soutenue. Une action visant à brouiller ses échanges grâce au drone pourrait même être engagée.


Ensuite, l'armement des drones s'inscrit dans la logique naturelle des choses, comme celui des hélicoptères ou des avions avant eux.  Leurs opérateurs pourront ainsi avoir la possibilité d'appuyer une unité amie prise sous le feu ennemi. Ils seront également en mesure de neutraliser  quasiment sur le champ un groupe d'éléments hostiles tirant aux mortiers sur une base amie. De fait, l'armement des drones les fera entrer pleinement dans la fameuse boucle OODA (Observation, Orientation, Décision, Action), surtout dans le volet « Action ». 


Les besoins moins urgents portent sur des drones pouvant assurer le ravitaillement d'éléments isolés, citons le cas d'unités des forces spéciales dans certaines zones d'Afrique ou de bases éloignées en Afghanistan. Les convois terrestres y sont en effet devenus des cibles toutes trouvées pour les poseurs de bombes improvisées et les snipers ennemis. Les drones à voilure tournante (VTOL) paraissent ici les mieux adaptés à ses missions de logistique.

Les Etats-Unis étudient d'ailleurs sérieusement cette piste. Ils envisagent ainsi le déploiement de l'A160T Hummingbird de Boeing en Afghanistan ainsi que celui du MQ-8B Fire Scout de Northrop Grumman et du K-Max de Lockheed Martin et Kaman Aerospace.  


Enfin, à terme, il n'est pas exclu que ces mêmes drones VTOL soient engagés pour des missions plus délicates telles que l'évacuation de blessés ou le ravitaillement en armements, équipements, etc. de troupes engagées au combat.   

En France, la marine ne dispose pas de drones en service. Toutefois, comme pour les avions et les hélicoptères, nul ne doute qu'elle saura rapidement intégrer ces autres moyens aériens si le besoin s'en fait sentir.


Néanmoins, plusieurs axes d'emploi se dessinent déjà. Des drones MALE ou HALE (Haute Altitude Longue Endurance) pourraient se révéler utile pour surveiller des zones maritimes étendues, puis orienter les navires vers des cibles éventuelles. Puis, à proximité de l'objectif, un VTOL décollant d'un bâtiment pourrait alors permettre de confirmer ou non son intérêt. Ce même VTOL pourrait assurer une surveillance aérienne si une opération de contrôle venait à être décider.    

Enfin, au-delà des drones, c'est-à-dire des vecteurs aériens, les besoins portent sur le développement de systèmes permettant de fournir la bonne information, en temps utile, au bon abonné. Les travaux portent ici sur les capteurs, les logiciels (traitement et fusion de données) et les moyens de communication. Les Américains, par exemple, visent le développement de charges utiles (ex. : Gorgon Stare) qui permettront à un même drone de transmettre simultanément des données différentes à des unités distinctes au sol et vers des aéronefs. C'est le principe de l'information « à la demande ». Ils étudient également l'intérêt des couples « drones-aéronefs ». Un avion et un hélicoptère pourraient utilement se servir de drones « éclaireurs » pour reconnaitre un axe ou de drones « anges gardiens » pour leurrer un système de défense ennemi.       


- Vers qui se tourner pour s'équiper au plus juste prix? Achat sur étagère?


Comme dans d'autres domaines, pour s'équiper au plus juste prix, il convient de se rapprocher du producteur vendant le plus pour profiter de l'effet de série. Or, à ce jour, force est de constater que ce producteur a de grandes changes d'être américain, avec General Atomics, ou israélien, avec Israel Aerospace Industries et Elbit Systems.


Il faut dire que les entreprises américaines et israéliennes ont la chance de disposer d'un marché intérieur très important et protégé, en plus de profiter depuis au moins une dizaine d'années d'investissements conséquents et réguliers dans le domaine des drones.     


En France, les industriels n'ont pourtant pas à rougir de leurs réalisations. Avec le Sperwer et le Tracker, Sagem et Cassidian sont parvenus à développer des drones dont certains ont même été vendus à l'export, preuve de leur compétitivité commerciale.


Et avec le système intérimaire Harfang, à ce jour, Cassidian jouit d'une connaissance sans égale en Europe dans le domaine des drones MALE, ce qui est loin d'être trivial puisqu'elle porte sur le vecteur aérien et ses charges utiles mais aussi (et surtout) sur leurs intégrations à une architecture de communication, sans oublier l'ensemble des moyens au sol nécessaires au traitement et à la dissémination des données recueillies par le drone.


Enfin, Bourget 2011 oblige, il n'est pas improbable de penser que si par le passé le domaine des drones avait fait l'objet d'un intérêt plus marqué par l'ensemble des acteurs concernés en France et en Europe, nos industriels présenteraient alors sur leur stand des solutions au moins équivalentes aux produits américains.   

- Le drone de combat pose-t-il un problème éthique, comme l'a affirmé un ministre britannique? Quel est le point de vue des concepteurs sur cette question qui n'a rien de technique?


Concernant particulièrement l'armement des drones et les questions d'éthique liées, le débat n'a pas lieu d'être, du moins pas sous cet angle, à moins qu'il ne faille l'ouvrir pour l'ensemble des plateformes mettant en œuvre des armements à distance (sous-marins, navires de surface, avions de combat, hélicoptères, etc.).


En fait, il semble que les questionnements portent davantage sur le degré d'automatisme à donner aux systèmes d'armes modernes. Ces derniers sont en effet de plus en plus automatisés, particulièrement grâce aux systèmes issus des nouvelles technologies de l'information et de la communication (NTIC). Néanmoins, ici encore, l'intérêt du débat peut être lui-même discuté. L'emploi des armes est en effet très strict. Il est encadré par des règles d'engagement, les fameuses ROE (Rules Of Engagement) et c'est toujours l'homme qui décide in fine d'appuyer, ou non, sur le bouton.


N'en déplaise aux amateurs de science fiction, les robots dotés du libre arbitre n'existent pas ![1].


Lire également l'interview de Monsieur Bertrand Slaski, Consultant au sein de la CEIS - Lettre du CESA

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17 juin 2011 5 17 /06 /juin /2011 07:55



June 16, 2011 Andrew White, SHEPARD GROUP


Brussels –  NATO is threatened with a substantial shortfall in airborne surveillance should the UK retire its Sentinel Airborne Stand-Off Reconnaissance (ASTOR) fleet in 2013, a senior officer in the organisation has warned.


Referring to the forthcoming Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) programme which is due to come into service in 2015, Col Matt Anderer USAF, Force Command Requirements at Supreme HQ Allied Powers Europe said NATO's airborne surveillance capabilities were currently 'stretched' and 'heavily tasked'.


Speaking at the UV Europe conference in Brussels, Anderer warned that such a shortfall would be exacerbated should the UK scrap the Sentinel as outlined in October's Strategic Defence and Security Review. The Royal Air Force (RAF) has already lost its Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft programme as part of the same review.


The Ministry of Defence said Raytheon’s ASTOR system could be ‘withdrawn once it is no longer required to support operations in Afghanistan’. Two Sentinel R Mk I aircraft are regularly contributing to coalition operations in Afghanistan on a daily basis.


'AGS is one of the alliance's most pressing capability needs. Now, we only have this capability from two [UK and US] alliance members. Assets are heavily tasked and very scarce resources and this will be even more if the UK retires the Sentinel fleet in 2013. AGS is critical to NATO and at this point in time, we cannot fail,' Anderer urged.


Supported by 14 member nations, NATO's AGS programme comprises the procurement of six Block 40 RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs from Northrop Grumman as well as two transportable general ground stations (GGS), six mobile GGS, mission operations support installation and remote workstations. Anderer said he expected a contract to be signed by September this year with activation of the AGS main operating base at Sigonella air force base in Italy launched within the following 18 months.


It is envisaged that the Global Hawks will work alongside NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft or AWACS. 'The AGS core will be able to look at what is happening on the Earth’s surface, providing situational awareness before, during and, if necessary, after NATO operations,' according to officials.


Referring to current operations in Libya, Anderer said an AGS capability would 'provide a constant watch to help thwart Gaddafi's [military] attacks on civilians as well as supporting human relief efforts on land and at sea'.


The AGS programme will carry standard and high resolution SAR, GMTI and maritime moving target indicators for missions ranging from border control and humanitarian operations through to counter-IED and anti-piracy missions.

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14 juin 2011 2 14 /06 /juin /2011 19:40


A Global Hawk mock-up at the UK's Royal International Air Tattoo in 2009


14/06/11 By Stephen Trimble SOURCE:Flight International


Despite no lack of interest, acquiring a dedicated platform to detect ground moving targets on radar has eluded NATO for 20 years.


Casualties in the quest among NATO's European partners lay strewn across the historical records like the bombed-out tanks of Iraq's III Corps along the highway from Kuwait City to Basra in February 1991. France mothballed the Horizon, a radar-equipped Eurocopter AS532 Cougar, in 2008.


Italy developed the CRESO radar for the AgustaBell 412 helicopter, but that project also fizzled. Perhaps the most successful project - the Royal Air Force Sentinel R1 fleet equipped with the airborne stand-off radar - is to exit service post-Afghanistan campaign.


Each of these projects was launched in the aftermath of a failed push by the US government in the mid-1990s to persuade NATO to acquire the Northrop Grumman E-8C JSTARS airborne ground surveillance system. JSTARS pioneered the application of ground moving target indicator (GMTI) radar and spotted Iraq's III Corps en route to Basra through a sandstorm.



NATO is as close today as it has ever been to finally awarding a contract for a GMTI system, now defined as the RQ-4 Block 40 with the Northrop/Raytheon multi-platform radar technology insertion programme sensor.


Northrop submitted its proposal in March. A contract for six aircraft is to be awarded in October, to fulfil a vision nearly 20 years old.


In the interim between the JSTARS proposal and the Global Hawk-based Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system, NATO's European members have decided that they cannot afford the expense of a national GMTI capability. Instead, NATO has approved a system based exclusively on the RQ-4 Block 40 already in service with the US government.



RQ-4 Northrop Grumman
 © Northrop Grumman
 An RQ-4 Block 40 in action


"The airframe and the sensor are identical to the US Air Force. The only thing we've done is we've added a European wideband datalink to the system to allow unfetterred flow of information," says Matthew Copija, director of Northrop's AGS programme. "There are no [export control] issues associated with getting the data down. We made it cleaner from an export standpoint approach."


Allowing the GMTI data to flow among all of NATO's members is critical for preserving its support as defence budgets tighten. The alliance has been making progress on interoperability over the past 15 years.



Global Hawk shot over Haiti - Northrop Grumman
 © Northrop Grumman
A Global Hawk shot over Haiti 


The first step was setting up a NATO command, control and communications agency (NC3A) testbed in 1996. That led to development of coalition aerial surveillance and reconnaissance (Caesar), establishing protocols for exchanging classified data generated from the synthetic aperture radars of member countries. The next step - developing software to facilitate that exchange - brought the advent of the multi-sensor aerospace-ground joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance interoperability coalition (MAJIIC).


"NC3A started out as a testbed, it turned into Caesar," Copija says. "Caesar now has MAJIIC. [That system is about] how do they deal with interoperability within NATO on GMTI data and it's becoming a key backbone system for NATO as we go forward."


That is not to suggest that NATO has overcome the budget and operational challenges that have delayed the GMTI programme for decades. Even as member countries experimented with individual programmes, NATO tried to launch the transatlantic industrial proposed solution programme, which included the RQ-4 and the Airbus A321 with the Thomson-CSF applications radar (TCAR).



RQ-4 Global Hawk fact box 


"The TCAR became the critical path for deployment of the system," Copija says. "The nations that weren't really benefiting from it, they all came away... [deciding] the return on investment and technology reuse just wasn't there for the risk and cost associated."


Instead, NATO has settled for an off-the-shelf system that includes six RQ-4s - down from eight air vehicles - based at Sigonella air base in Sicily. The system also includes an almost entirely off-the-shelf ground system. If NATO members object to GMTI this time, it will not be driven by the budget or schedule of the development phase. "This approach is a turnkey," Copija says. "It is designed to develop it, demonstrate it, qualify it and then produce it and then stand it up, all in one single contract."


For the ground station, the proposed offer calls for EADS to be responsible for the mobile system, including a communications truck and a trailer. Selex, meanwhile, is working with Romania and Bulgaria to develop a mobile operating base. "The [NATO] force commander stands up every day and says he needs it," Copija says. "It will save alliance lives and save troops on the ground and protect them. It makes them more efficient and effective at what they do. The reason it survives is operationally it has a need."


See the latest in unmanned air vehicles

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11 juin 2011 6 11 /06 /juin /2011 11:40



10/06/11 By Zach Rosenberg SOURCE:Flight International


The Pentagon has issued a report highly critical of Northrop Grumman's RQ-4 Global Hawk, the troubled unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) slated to replace the U-2 for high-altitude reconnaissance. The operational test and evaluation (OT&E) report, issued 27 May, slams Global Hawk Block 30 as being able to accomplish its mission only 27% of the time.


"Since their worldwide deployment began last August, the Block 20/30s have performed quite well," read a Northrop-issued statement. "Today, the deployed system are performing at better than 90% Mission Effectiveness." Northrop also noted that low effectiveness rates are common among new aircraft types.


Four low-rate initial production (LRIP) examples of the Block 30 were provided to evaluators for testing. "Due to poor air vehicle reliability, operational units are not able to consistently generate or maintain long endurance sorties to provide persistent ISR support," the report reads. The report notes that operating at low operational tempos, provided adequate spare parts and maintenance time, the aircraft can provide 40% capability. The air force requires 55% capability to declare the aircraft operationally effective.


Northrop Grumman said there were no surprises in the report but would not confirm the details beyond noting that the company has made significant progress since the evaluation period.


"We don't see any major show stoppers," said Northrop executive Ed Walby in a February interview, two months after the December, 2010 evaluation concluded. "We expect to get an average grade, as most programs do."


Also in February the air force cut its order of the follow-on Block 40 from 22 to 11, using the money saved to fix "significant" deficiencies with Block 30 payloads; those payloads, the Enhanced Imagery Sensor Suite (EISS) and Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP) received mixed reviews in the OT&E.

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1 juin 2011 3 01 /06 /juin /2011 08:00
BAE Systems, Dassault Await UAS Requirement



May 31, 2011 By Robert Wall aviation week and space technology


Warton, England - One of the flagship programs underpinning the ambitious Franco-British effort to establish a 50-year strategic partnership in national security is several steps closer to being clarified.


France and the U.K. have committed to jointly address their medium-, long-endurance unmanned aircraft (MALE) requirement under the new defense agreement that was formulated in November 2010. But much of the program’s success will hinge on devising combined requirements and a cohesive acquisition strategy. Progress on both fronts is being made, and a definitive shape is likely in the next few months.


The French defense procurement agency, DGA, has already dispatched a cadre to Abbey Wood, home of the U.K. defense ministry’s defense equipment and support organization, to help run the project. The detailed acquisition strategy is now being defined.


Many industry officials in Europe are eagerly anticipating the outcome, but probably none more so than BAE Systems and Dassault—they have agreed to jointly pursue the program. Others, such as Thales, are still pondering a commitment and EADS Cassidian is mulling over building a proposal featuring its Talarion unmanned aircraft concept.


While BAE Systems and Dassault have agreed on the broad outline, details are closely coupled to the requirements document. Although the two national prime contractors appear strange bedfellows, Ian Fairclough, project director for strategic unmanned aerial systems (UAS) programs at BAE Systems, argues that the two firms offer “complementary capabilities.”


Fairclough suggests that open competition and a sole-source approach to the Franco-British industrial partnership are under consideration; European competition rules could influence the outcome.


Regardless of what course is taken, Fairclough argues, there are benefits to moving quickly beyond just preserving the notional 2015-20 fielding agenda. A prolonged competitive process jeopardizes design engineering skills, which would otherwise be idle during that time.


Detailed program definition between the partners is still being worked out. What is less clear is how specific that document will be and whether it will be sufficient to begin detailed design activity.


One matter still under discussion is whether the system would have to be certified to civil requirements, which would ease operations in civil airspace but add complexity and cost.


Industry also is waiting for word from both governments over their preference for final assembly.


The current plan calls for BAE Systems to be responsible for defining the aircraft and engine selection—turbofans and turboprops are still in the mix—while Dassault would focus on systems integration and testing, Eric Trappier, executive vice president/international at Dassault Aviation, said recently.


The concept would be an evolution of the Mantis flying demonstrator developed by BAE Systems. Many details, though, remain undetermined, including how many air vehicles will be featured in each system.


Another decision revolves around devising an exportable system. The two countries “would like to minimize ITAR content,” Fairclough says of equipment governed by the complex U.S. International Transfer of Arms Regulations.


The air vehicle would be designed to be able to both target and deliver ordnance.


Cost estimates vary for the program. Some put the development/production bill at €1 billion ($1.4 billion), which would be shared equally, although a U.K. defense ministry document cites a £2 billion ($3.2 billion) life-cycle cost for the U.K. alone. That assumes around 20 aircraft, although no number has been set.


For the U.K., the program would take on much of the requirement of the so-called Scavenger UAS requirement, although it remains uncertain whether all aspects would be covered by the Franco-British effort. The U.K.’s UAS document, developed by the defense ministry’s doctrine center, suggests “the U.K. will consider if other complementary components are needed to fully satisfy the U.K. capability requirement.”


Although the program is bilateral, so far, Dassault’s Yves Robins, a counselor to Trappier, says that if the two governments change course, industry would adapt.

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16 mai 2011 1 16 /05 /mai /2011 21:30



May 16, 2011 (AP)


YOKOSUKA, Japan (AP) — The U.S. is developing aircraft carrier-based drones that could provide a crucial edge as it tries to counter China's military rise.


American officials have been tightlipped about where the unmanned armed planes might be used, but a top Navy officer has told The Associated Press that some would likely be deployed in Asia.


"They will play an integral role in our future operations in this region," predicted Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, which covers most of the Pacific and Indian oceans.


Land-based drones are in wide use in the war in Afghanistan, but sea-based versions will take several more years to develop. Northrop Grumman conducted a first-ever test flight — still on land — earlier this year.


Van Buskirk didn't mention China specifically, but military analysts agree the drones could offset some of China's recent advances, notably its work on a "carrier-killer" missile.


"Chinese military modernization is the major long-term threat that the U.S. must prepare for in the Asia-Pacific region, and robotic vehicles — aerial and subsurface — are increasingly critical to countering that potential threat," said Patrick Cronin, a senior analyst with the Washington-based Center for New American Security.


China is decades away from building a military as strong as America's, but it is developing air, naval and missile capabilities that could challenge U.S. supremacy in the Pacific — and with it, America's ability to protect important shipping lanes and allies such as Japan and South Korea.


China maintains it does not have offensive intentions and is only protecting its own interests: The shipping lanes are also vital to China's export-dependent economy. There are potential flash points, though, notably Taiwan and clusters of tiny islands that both China and other Asian nations claim as their territory.


The U.S. Navy's pursuit of drones is a recognition of the need for new weapons and strategies to deal not only with China but a changing military landscape generally.


"Carrier-based unmanned aircraft systems have tremendous potential, especially in increasing the range and persistence of our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, as well as our ability to strike targets quickly," Van Buskirk said at the 7th Fleet's headquarters in Yokosuka, Japan.


His fleet boasts one carrier — the USS George Washington — along with about 60 other ships and 40,000 sailors and Marines.


Experts say the drones could be used on any of the 11 U.S. carriers worldwide and are not being developed exclusively as a counterbalance to China.


But China's reported progress in missile development appears to make the need for them more urgent.


The DF 21D "carrier killer" missile is designed for launch from land with enough accuracy to hit a moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 900 miles (1,500 kilometers). Though still unproven — and some analysts say overrated — no other country has such a weapon.


Current Navy fighter jets can only operate about 500 nautical miles (900 kilometers) from a target, leaving a carrier within range of the Chinese missile.


Drones would have an unrefueled combat radius of 1,500 nautical miles (2,780 kilometers) and could remain airborne for 50 to 100 hours — versus the 10 hour maximum for a pilot, according to a 2008 paper by analysts Tom Ehrhard and Robert Work at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Work is now an undersecretary of the Navy.


"Introducing a new aircraft that promises to let the strike group do its work from beyond the maximum effective firing range of the anti-ship ballistic missile — or beyond its range entirely — represents a considerable boost in defensive potential for the carrier strike group," said James Holmes of the U.S. Naval War College.


Northrop Grumman has a six-year, $635.8 million contract to develop two of the planes, with more acquisitions expected if they work. A prototype of its X-47B took a maiden 29-minute flight in February at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Initial testing on carriers is planned for 2013.


Other makers including Boeing and Lockheed are also in the game. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. — the maker of the Predator drones used in the Afghan war — carried out wind tunnel tests in February. Spokeswoman Kimberly Kasitz said it was too early to divulge further details.


Some experts warn carrier-based drones are still untested and stress that Chinese advances have not rendered carriers obsolete.


"Drones, if they work, are just the next tech leap. As long as there is a need for tactical aviation launched from the sea, carriers will be useful weapons of war," said Michael McDevitt, a former commandant of the National War College in Washington, D.C., and a retired rear admiral whose commands included an aircraft carrier battle group.


Some analysts also note that China may be reluctant to instigate any fighting that could interfere with its trade.


Nan Li, an expert at the U.S. Naval War College's China Maritime Studies Institute, doubts China would try to attack a U.S. carrier.


"I am a skeptic of such an interpretation of Chinese strategy," he said. "But I do think the X-47B may still be a useful preventive capability for worst-case scenarios."


The Air Force and Navy both sponsored a project to develop carrier-based drones in the early 2000s, but the Air Force pulled out in 2005, leaving the Navy to fund the research.


Adm. Gary Roughhead, chief of naval operations, said last summer that the current goal of getting a handful of unmanned bombers in action by 2018 is "too damn slow."


"Seriously, we've got to have a sense of urgency about getting this stuff out there," he told a conference. "It could fundamentally change how we think of naval aviation."

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17 avril 2011 7 17 /04 /avril /2011 17:30
Pakistan wants drone technology: report

Apr 17 2011 THE NATION


Drone attacks in Pakistan are creating rifts between US and Pakistan, claims UK media. After difference with US, Pakistan has approached many other countries including China to get drone technology, says UK media. According to report, drone attacks in Pakistan are creating rifts between US and Pakistan. CIA is not taking Pakistan into confidence regarding airstrikes.

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9 avril 2011 6 09 /04 /avril /2011 06:00
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30 mars 2011 3 30 /03 /mars /2011 11:30

An artist concept showing the Global Hawk RQ-4B Block 40 configured for the NATO AGS core capability. Photo: Northrop Grumman


March 29, 2011 by Tamir Eshel DEFENSE UPDATE


Northrop Grumman Corporation submitted its final proposal for the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) core capability. NATO AGS system will employ an air segment consisting of six Northrop Grumman Block 40 Global Hawks specially missionized to provide persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to ground, maritime and air commanders, anytime and anywhere in the world. These Global hawks will be equipped with Northrop Grumman’s Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) ground surveillance radar sensor, which will be capable of detecting and tracking moving objects throughout the observed areas, as well as providing radar imagery of target locations and stationary objects.


The primary ground segment component will consist of a number of ground stations in different configurations, such as mobile and transportable configurations, which will provide data link connectivity, data processing and exploitation capabilities, and interfaces for interoperability with Command, Control Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance(C2ISR) systems. The AGS Core ground segment will also include dedicated mission support facilities at the AGS Main Operating Bases (MOB), and ground stations for flight control of the UAVs. The Main Operating Base will be located at Sigonella Air Base, Italy. The Core system will be supplemented by interoperable national airborne stand-off ground surveillance systems from NATO countries, thus forming a system of systems.


NATO AGS program was approved by European heads of state and government as a priority capability initiative at the 2010 Lisbon Summit. In support of the new strategic concept, system will establish a network-enabled sensor system, supporting interoperability with national systems in support of all possible missions, including force protection, border and maritime security, counter- and anti-terrorism, crisis management, peacekeeping and enforcement, and natural disaster relief.


The current proposal is based on refinements introduced by the team to meet NATO requirements. “Our updated proposal offers an affordable, executable program that will provide an operationally relevant system to the Alliance,” said Pat McMahon, sector vice president of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems’ Battle Management & Engagement Systems Division. Northrop Grumman is expecting contract award by July 2011.


NATO embarked on the AGS program in 1995, when the NATO Defence Ministers agreed to develop a pooled NATO asset, consisting of both manned and unmanned platforms, as well as ground control stations in various configurations. The manned platform was to be based on the Airbus A321 commercial airliner, and the unmanned platform on the Global Hawk high altitude long endurance UAV. Both the manned and unmanned platforms were to carry the Transatlantic Cooperative AGS Radar (TCAR). In November 2007, however, due to declining European defense budgets, NATO chose to move forward with a UAV-only solution based on the Global Hawk RQ-4B and the multi-platform radar technology insertion program (MP-RTIP). With this revision, the number of cooperating nations was reduced from 24 to 14.


NATO AGS is the first international sale of the Block 40 Global Hawk. The ground element, which provides real-time data, intelligence and target identification to commanders within and beyond line of sight, will be wholly produced by the team’s European industry partners, offering the potential for national re-use in other programs as well as direct work in the program for the participating nations. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the program, leading a team which includes companies from each of nations participating in the acquisition.


The program is managed by NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency (NAGSMA) and being implemented by the AGS Implementation Office (AGS IO) at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). The agency was established in September 2009 after all participating nations signed the AGS Program Memorandum of Understanding. NAGSMA, was chartered to acquire the NATO-owned and operated core capability, and is responsible for the procurement of the NATO AGS capability until it has reached full operational capability at the NATO AGS main operating base in Italy.

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28 mars 2011 1 28 /03 /mars /2011 17:30
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28 mars 2011 1 28 /03 /mars /2011 12:30
Northrop Grumman Submits Final Proposal for NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance

ELBOURNE, Fla., March 28, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE)


Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) submitted its final proposal last week for the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) core capability – a trans-Atlantic cooperation that will meet the security challenges of the 21st century. "The updated proposal offers an affordable, executable program that will provide an operationally relevant system to the Alliance," said Pat McMahon, sector vice president of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems' Battle Management & Engagement Systems Division. "NATO AGS will be a critical component of the Alliance's response to threats to peace now and in the future."


Based on the Block 40 configuration of the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft, the NATO AGS system will provide persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to ground, maritime and air commanders, anytime and anywhere in the world. A contract award is anticipated in July 2011. The NATO AGS includes an air segment consisting of six Block 40 Global Hawks that will be missionized to meet NATO requirements. They will be equipped with Northrop Grumman's Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) ground surveillance radar sensor, which will be capable of detecting and tracking moving objects throughout the observed areas as well as providing radar imagery of target locations and stationary objects. "The ground element, which provides real-time data, intelligence and target identification to commanders within and beyond line of sight, will be wholly produced by our European industry partners, offering the potential for national re-use in other programs as well as direct work in the program for the participating nations," said Matt Copija, director of Northrop Grumman's NATO AGS program. "As NATO's highest acquisition priority and Europe's highest visibility program, NATO AGS also represents the first international sale of the Block 40 Global Hawk."


Approved by heads of state and government as a priority capability initiative at the 2010 Lisbon Summit in support of the new strategic concept, the NATO AGS system will empower a network-enabled approach to support interoperability with national systems and to perform the entire range of NATO missions, including force protection, border and maritime security, counter- and anti-terrorism, crisis management, peacekeeping and enforcement, and natural disaster relief. It also includes mobile and transportable ground stations and a world-class mission operation support center at its main operating base in Sigonella, Italy. Flying up to 60,000 feet for more than 32 hours, the combat-proven Global Hawk has flown more than 53,000 hours thus far. The U.S. Air Force Block 30 Global Hawks continue to fly relief support missions over Japan in response to the tragic 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami, and are also supporting the NATO-led coalition effort in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn over Libya.  The Global Hawk was also used for disaster relief and recovery efforts following the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, Hurricane Ike on the Gulf Coast in 2009, and the California wildfires in 2007 and 2008.


As prime contractor, Northrop Grumman worked closely with the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency (NAGSMA) and its industry team, which includes companies from each of the 14 nations participating in the acquisition, to refine the proposal to meet NATO requirements. NAGSMA, which was chartered to acquire the NATO-owned and operated core capability, is responsible for the procurement of the NATO AGS capability until it has reached full operational capability. NAGSMA was established in September 2009 after all participating nations signed the AGS Program Memorandum of Understanding.

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15 mars 2011 2 15 /03 /mars /2011 12:30
Drones : Dassault signe avec le britannique BAE



14/03/11 par Véronique Guillermard, LeFigaro.fr



Une fois obtenu le feu vert de Paris et de Londres, les deux constructeurs vont développer un drone d’observation (MALE) dans le cadre d’une coopération exclusive.


Quatre mois après la signature à Londres d’accords de défense et de sécurité entre Nicolas Sarkozy et le premier ministre David Cameron, les industriels entrent dans le vif du sujet. Dassault Aviation*, le constructeur de l’avion de combat Rafale, et BAE Systems qui est un des pays participant au programme rival Eurofighter, ont signé un mémorandum (MOU) qui trace les lignes d’une coopération exclusive dans le domaine d’appareils sans pilotes humains - drones - d’observation de moyenne altitude et longue endurance (MALE) de nouvelle génération.


A côté des porte-avions et de la défense antimissiles, les drones étaient au cœur des accords de défense signés le 3 novembre 2010 entre Paris et Londres. Les deux gouvernements étaient tombés d’accord pour identifier des grands domaines de coopération permettant, contraintes budgétaires obligent, de partager des ressources afin de développer des matériels pour les deux armées.


Dassault Aviation et BAE ont déjà bien avancé. Ils ont remis une étude de faisabilité de drone MALE à leur gouvernement. «Ce dont nous avons besoin à présent, c’est d’une décision rapide de lancement de programme par les deux gouvernements», souligne Éric Trappier, directeur général international du groupe français. Ce feu vert doit être donné dans le cadre des relations bilatérales au niveau politique le plus haut ainsi qu’aux niveaux des deux instances principales : le «Senior level group» et le «high level working group». Ce dernier étant composé des représentants des deux directions générales de l’armement des deux pays.


Dans le détail, la coopération s’inscrit dans le cadre d’un partenariat à 50-50 entre les deux industriels. BAE Systems est le maître d’œuvre du projet qui s’appuie sur la plateforme MANTIS, un démonstrateur de drone MALE bimoteurs équipé de turbopropulseurs PT6 du canadien Pratt & Whitney, construit par le groupe britannique. «Mantis offre une base de travail pour développer une plateforme nouvelle qui soit financièrement abordable et réponde aux besoins opérationnels des deux pays», précise un porte-parole du constructeur français. L’appareil sera construit en Grande-Bretagne. De son côté, Dassault Aviation développera le système de mission (l’électronique, l’avionique, les capteurs) ainsi que les stations de programmation terrestres. Ce drone sera proposé aux armées françaises et britanniques. Le budget du projet n’est pas encore calé mais il faudra investir plusieurs centaines de millions d’euros pour le développement.



Mise en service à la fin de la décennie


Les deux industriels visent une mise en service à la fin de cette décennie. Les deux partenaires espèrent également le vendre à l’export notamment dans les pays qui utilisent l’actuel système américain Predator de General Atomics.


Les deux industriels sont optimistes sur leur capacité à travailler ensemble. Les rôles de chacun sont bien définis et il n’y a pas d’ambiguïté en matière de leadership. De plus ils ont déjà joint leurs efforts dans le passé. En 1967, Bréguet Aviation (repris et fusionné ensuite avec Dassault) et British Aircraft Corporation (devenu BAE) avaient signé un protocole d’accord pour développer ensemble un avion de combat : le Jaguar. Fabriqué à plus de 600 exemplaires pour six pays, ce programme a été un succès. Les derniers exemplaires du Jaguar, mis en service en 1973, sont encore fabriqués sous licence en Inde à Bengalore mais l’appareil a été retiré du service actif en 2005 par la France et en 2007 par la Grande-Bretagne qui en avait utilisé une dizaine pendant la guerre du Golfe.



* Dassault Aviation est une filiale de dassault, propriétaire du Figaro

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2 mars 2011 3 02 /03 /mars /2011 00:23
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25 octobre 2010 1 25 /10 /octobre /2010 16:55
Daurade, un démonstrateur de drone sous-marin autonome (crédit : DGA/COMM)

Daurade, un démonstrateur de drone sous-marin autonome (crédit : DGA/COMM)


25/10/2010 Goulven Hamel – DGA.comm


Le programme de système de lutte anti-mines futur (SLaMF) de la direction générale de l’armement prépare le renouvellement de toutes les composantes en guerre des mines de la marine nationale.


Depuis le développement des PAP (poissons autopropulsés) dans les années 1960, la France est à la pointe de l’utilisation de la robotique dans la lutte contre les mines sous-marines. Avec le système de lutte anti-mines futur (SLAMF), opération majeure qui vise à renouveler les composantes de guerre des mines de la Marine nationale, la Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) poursuit cette tradition. « Il s’agitdu même concept fondateur :éloigner l’homme de la menace, résume Alain Hetet, manager SLAMF à l’Unité de management opérations d’armement navales (UM NAV). Dans deszones dangereuses, l’utilisationde la robotique nous permetde gagner en allonge touten s’approchant au plus près dela mine. »


Depuis juillet 2009, le programme d’étude amont (PEA) Espadon de la DGA permet d’étudier les concepts d’emploi de ces « drones mouillés »*. Il structure économiquement l’excellence française du domaine dans un groupement d’opportunité fédérant DCNS, Thales Underwater Systems (TUS) et ECA. « Depuis un bâtimentmère, nous déployonsvers le champ de mines un ensembled’USV taxi transportantd’autres drones permettant dedétecter et localiser la mine puisde l’identifier et la neutraliser, poursuit Alain Hetet. Mais cevéritable système de systèmesreste pour l’instant une simplearchitecture candidateavec de nombreux conceptsà valider. »


Ce concept a été proposé à l’Agence européenne de défense (AED) au sein du programme de « déminage maritime » (MMCM, maritimemine counter measures), une étude capacitaire et d’armement réunissant treize pays. Parallèlement, l’AED a lancé UMS (unmanned maritimesystems), large projet de R&T en robotique navale fédérant des études sur des applications navales multiples comme la chasse aux mines, le dragage de mines, mais aussi la protection portuaire et la lutte anti sous-marine. « Les opérationnels sont très fortement et quotidiennementimpliqués dansle programme SLAMF, qui entreraprogressivement en capacitéopérationnelle à partir de2018 », conclut Alain Hetet.


* Les drones mouillés regroupent les drones sous-marins UUV (unmanned underwatervehicle) et les drones navals de surface USV (unmanned surface vehicle).

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