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30 mai 2012 3 30 /05 /mai /2012 16:50
Obama set to arm Italy's drones in milestone move

30 May 2012defenceWeb (Reuters)


President Barack Obama's administration appears set to notify the U.S. Congress of plans to arm a fleet of Italian MQ-9 Reaper drones, a step that may spur a wider spread of remotely piloted hunter-killer aircraft.


The administration could move ahead within two weeks on the proposal to let Italy join Britain in deploying U.S. drones with weapons such as laser-guided bombs and Hellfire missiles, U.S. officials said.


Italy has a fleet of six Reapers. The sale of the technology to arm them, including bomb racks and "weaponization" kits costing up to $17 million, would help the United States redistribute the burden of its global military operations as the Pentagon's budget is being squeezed by deficit-reduction requirements, Reuters reports.


Aides to Obama have been informally consulting the House of Representatives' and Senate's foreign affairs committees about the proposed sale to Italy since last year, congressional staff said.


The latest such period of "pre-consultations" ended May 27 without a move to block the sale, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the coming formal notification to lawmakers.


A transfer to Italy would make it harder for the United States to deny armed-drone technology if asked for it by other members of the 28-country NATO alliance or by close U.S. partners such as South Korea, Japan and Australia, arms-sale analysts said.


"I think that if you sell armed drones to Italy, you will very likely make a decision that any member of NATO that wants them can also get them," said a former congressional staff member who followed the issue.


Some lawmakers fear that a decision to arm Italian drones may spur overseas sales of related technology by Israel, Russia and China.


The United States has used its MQ-9s to hunt and kill members of al Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistani tribal areas.


Upgraded Italian Reapers would be able to fire weapons such as Lockheed Martin Corp's next generation AGM-114R, or Hellfire "Romeo," designed to knock out "hard, soft and enclosed targets," according to Lockheed, the Pentagon's No. 1 supplier by sales.


Britain, the first foreign country to get U.S. technology to arm its Reapers, is considered a special case. Many U.S. officials and members of Congress view it as Washington's staunchest and most reliable ally.


The State Department does not comment on proposed sales of U.S. military hardware until formal notifications have been completed. But a State Department official described Italy as a strong NATO ally which contributes significantly to coalition operations.


"The transfer of U.S. defense articles and service to allies like Italy enables us to work together more effectively to meet shared security challenges," said the official, who declined to be named.




Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has publicly opposed the transfer of armed drones. "There are some military technologies that I believe should not be shared with other countries, regardless of how close our partnership," Feinstein, a California Democrat, said last year.


She said she would put armed drones in the category of weapons the United States should try to rein in, not spread.


Turkey is among countries that have been seeking to buy U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. The MQ-9 Reaper is larger and more capable than the earlier MQ-1 Predator, both built by General Atomics.


Turkish President Abdullah Gul said on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Chicago last week that Obama was leaning toward selling UAVs to Turkey, which has fought separatist Kurdish rebels for decades in a conflict that has killed 40,000 people.


"The administration's position (toward a sale) is favorable," Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Gul as saying after he met Obama. "They are trying to convince Congress."


Under U.S. law a proposed U.S. arms sale may proceed unless lawmakers enact joint resolution barring it, an event that has never occurred.


The Obama administration says that all exports of sensitive military technology are considered on a case-by-case basis under a general policy of "restraint," taking into account national security and foreign-policy considerations as well as U.S. multilateral commitments.


Purchasers of U.S.-made military systems must agree to a strict set of "end-use" conditions designed to limit the system to approved uses such as self-defense and United Nations missions. They also must agree to let the United States monitor their adherence to these conditions.


Italy has sought to arm its drones for use in Afghanistan, where it maintains about 3,950 troops. But it initially wanted the drones themselves for such things as border patrols, the former congressional staff member said.


TEAL Group, a U.S. aerospace consultancy, estimated in April that worldwide UAV spending will almost double over the next decade, totaling more than $89 billion in the next 10 years.

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22 mai 2012 2 22 /05 /mai /2012 16:35
NATO Projects Aim to Fill European Defense Gaps


May. 20, 2012 By KATE BRANNEN  Defense news


CHICAGO — NATO leaders are expected to unveil several new multinational projects at its summit here this weekend aimed at better integrating European defense planning and capabilities.


The goal is to counter the continued decline of European defense budgets and financial contributions to NATO, a situation made worse by the ongoing sovereign debt crisis.


Europeans realize that they’re not going to have more defense resources, but they’ve got to do better with what they have, Stephen Flanagan, a defense and security analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said.


“Our European allies are still spending an enormous amount of money on defense, but they don’t spend it very wisely and there is a lot of redundancy. For $282 billion last year, NATO Europe should be able to get a lot more out of that than it does.”


At the Chicago summit, NATO will build upon its “Smart Defense” initiative, which encourages countries to coordinate their defense planning, paying close attention to where others are making budget cuts so as not to lose certain capabilities completely.


Three flagship projects — missile defense, Baltic air policing and Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS) — will be highlighted.


On missile defense, NATO is expected to announce an interim capability for a new missile defense shield. The planned purchase of five Global Hawk surveillance UAVs as part of the AGS project was announced in February.


In addition to these announcements, NATO is expected to unveil a package of more than 20 multinational projects that aim to fill capability gaps.


Whether these projects will help Europe shore up its defense capabilities remains to be seen, but observers will be watching the summit for clues.


“What I would watch is what’s the balance between rhetoric and practical projects,” said Ian Brzezinski, an Atlantic Council senior fellow who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO Policy from 2001 to 2005.


“There is a tendency in the alliance to focus on vision statements and plans that are 10 years out. They sound good, they make you feel good and you don’t have to do anything about them for several years,” Brzezinski said.


While the three big-ticket items are important, they are either long-term projects or, in the case of Baltic air policing, something NATO has been doing for some time, Brzezinski said.


“NATO publics need to see an alliance that’s credible and they’re not going to find as persuasive 10-year visions as they will practical projects that can be accomplished tomorrow,” Brzezinski said.


For this reason, he said he’d like to see greater emphasis placed on the less glamorous, but more practical projects, which include joint procurement of armored ambulances and communications equipment, the establishment of joint logistics hubs for armored personnel carriers, and joint training facilities.

Measured Expectations


While some NATO watchers would like to see more dramatic statements of commitment come out of Chicago, most expectations remain modest.


The Obama administration is hoping for few surprises, said Mark Jacobson, who served from 2009 to 2011 at the NATO International Security Assistance Force Headquarters in Kabul. “The idea is: ‘Let’s get through this and push things along.’”


Unlike the last summit in Lisbon in 2010, Chicago is not “an ideas summit,” Jacobson said.


The 2012 summit also is not about inviting new countries to join NATO, such as the 2008 summit in Bucharest.


However, while it may have started out as simply an “implementation summit,” a time for leaders to take stock of progress and chart out near-term plans, the Chicago summit is shaping into something a little more.


There is awareness that given the recent changes in the world, from the Arab Spring to the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, that NATO has to take these changes into account as it considers its future, Flanagan said


Brzezinski said he viewed the summit as an important opportunity for the United States and Europe to reaffirm their commitments to each other.


He said he is troubled by what he sees as disengagement on both sides of the Atlantic: the United States looking to Asia and Europe looking inward.


“If the Europeans don’t sign on for a serious plan for sustaining their defense commitment in tight fiscal times, and if it seems as if the alliance is running for the exits in Afghanistan, then it is going to have damaging consequences for the alliance,” Flanagan said.


However, it will bode well if the basic transition timetable in Afghanistan is reaffirmed and countries make a good faith effort on Smart Defense, making it more than just a passing slogan, he said.

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19 avril 2012 4 19 /04 /avril /2012 12:40
IAI to offer Germany Heron TP systems


April 18, 2012 by Arie Egozi - FG


Tel Aviv - Germany is expected to re-evaluate the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron TP unmanned air system following Cassidian's decision to halt development work on its Talarion programme.


The German military already uses a version of IAI's Heron 1 UAS in Afghanistan and its army has previously been briefed on the capabilities of the turboprop-engined Heron TP.


Sources say Berlin's expected competition for a medium-altitude, long-endurance UAS will be fierce, with the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Predator B another candidate.


EADS company Cassidian stopped work on the Talarion after failing to secure the required state funding from target nations France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Turkey to advance the programme towards building a flying prototype.

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18 avril 2012 3 18 /04 /avril /2012 12:55
Canada’s Pullout from AWACS and NATO’s AGS. A Smart Move?



April 17, 2012. By David Pugliese - Defence Watch


The Canadian Forces hope to save at least $90-million a year by pulling out of NATO programs operating unmanned aerial vehicles as well as airborne early warning planes.


Defence Minister Peter MacKay gave U.S. officials a heads-up last year about the withdrawal, pointing out that it will free up 142 Canadians assigned to NATO for new jobs.


The shutdown of Canada’s contribution to NATO’s airborne warning aircraft, known as AWACS, will save about $50-million a year, according to DND records. Another $40-million a year will be saved as a result of Canada’s withdrawal from NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Program, which would see the purchase of advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (latest generation Global Hawks) to conduct surveillance and intelligence gathering. Other DND documents Defence Watch has obtained indicate the savings could be higher than the $90 million. The move was conducted as part of the department’s contribution to the government’s Strategic Review.


Canada has been involved in NATO’s AWACS program for more than 25 years and the aircraft were seen as key to the alliance’s success during the recent war in Libya.


NATO also wants to ease the strain on the U.S. UAVs by having a pool of Global Hawks  at the alliance’s disposal.


Canada’s pull out from the UAV program will be done by the end of this month, the Defence Department told Defence Watch.


Do you think the pullout from AWACS and withdraw from AGS makes sense? There has been so much emphasis put on the importance of ISR collection in recent military operations, particularly during the Libyan war, that some officers have suggested to Defence Watch that this is a step in the wrong direction.

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15 avril 2012 7 15 /04 /avril /2012 07:10



Apr 15, 2012 Spacewar.com


Hunt Valley MD - AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) has announced a strategic alliance that combines AAI's expertise as a UAS systems integrator with KOR's signals intelligence (SIGINT) equipment.


The organizations intend to integrate KOR's SIGINT products, focused on expeditionary tactical unmanned aircraft such as AAI's renowned Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System, as a new addition to AAI's family of Multi-Mission Payloads (MMP). Each modular MMP "pod" can be attached quickly to the Shadow aircraft to equip it for the mission at hand.


"This technology provides warfighters actionable, time-sensitive data on the capabilities and activities of their adversaries," said Senior Vice President and General Manager Steven Reid of AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems.


"Equipping our Shadow aircraft - a trusted and omnipresent asset for so many U.S. and allied customers - for this collection mission can help deliver intelligence fast, and to a broader array of deployed forces and formations."


"During the process of evaluating initial alliance partners, KOR recognized that AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems was a market leader in UAS design, development, production and support, and that the Shadow Tactical UAS is ideally suited for KOR's market-leading SIGINT precision location capability," said KOR Electronics President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Carnino.


"KOR's precision location capability, coupled with the Shadow aircraft's existing electro-optic/infrared sensor, will significantly improve the find, fix and finish timeline and enhance the utility of the Shadow system's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance role."


KOR Electronics, a subsidiary of Mercury Computer Systems, is a leading supplier of subsystem-level solutions for defense prime contractors supporting the worldwide Defense and Intelligence communities. KOR is headquartered in Cypress, California with principal locations in Aurora, Colorado, and Rome, New York.


Mercury Computer Systems is a best-of-breed provider of open, commercially developed, application-ready, multi-INT subsystems for defense prime contractors. With over 30 years of experience in embedded computing, superior domain expertise in radar, EW, EO/IR, C4I and sonar applications, and more than 300 successful program deployments including Aegis, Global Hawk and Predator, Mercury's Services and Systems Integration (SSI) team leads the industry in partnering with customers to design and integrate system-level solutions that minimize program risk, maximize application portability and accelerate customers' time to market.


AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems has designed, manufactured and fielded combat-proven unmanned aircraft systems for more than 25 years. AAI's multi-mission capable unmanned aircraft and interoperable command and control technologies provide critical situational awareness and actionable intelligence for users worldwide. Its Australia-based strategic business, Aerosonde Pty Ltd, is a manufacturer of small unmanned aircraft systems. AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems is an operating unit of Textron Systems.


Textron Systems has been providing innovative solutions to the defense, homeland security and aerospace communities for more than 50 years. Headquartered in Wilmington, Mass., the company is known for its unmanned aircraft systems, advanced marine craft, armored vehicles, intelligent battlefield and surveillance systems, intelligence software solutions, precision smart weapons, piston engines, test and training systems, and total life cycle sustainment and operational services. Textron Systems includes AAI Logistics and Technical Services, AAI Test and Training, AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Advanced Systems, Aerosonde, ESL Defence, Lycoming Engines, Medical Numerics, MillenWorks, Overwatch, Textron Defense Systems and Textron Marine and Land Systems.

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29 mars 2012 4 29 /03 /mars /2012 17:15
Un second Shadow 200 pour l’Australie

AAI Shadow 200

photo Australian Governement Departement of Defence


29.03.2012 par Helen Chachaty - journal-aviation.com


Le ministère australien de la Défense annonce ce jeudi 29 mars la livraison prochaine d’un second drone tactique Shadow 200, avec un an d’avance sur le planning initial.

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21 mars 2012 3 21 /03 /mars /2012 08:25
Cassidian calls time on Talarion UAS


Mar. 20, 2012 by Craig Hoyle FG


EADS company Cassidian confirms that it has halted work on the Talarion unmanned air system (UAS) programme, after failing to secure financial backing from potential future buyers.


"Cassidian said several times during the last few months that we will only continue to invest in the Talarion programme if we would get a firm commitment from our potential customers," the company says, referring to France, Germany and Spain. "Unfortunately, we did not get this commitment so far. Therefore we decided to ramp down the programme."


Ambitious in its scale, the Talarion had been designed to meet a broad range of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance requirements for a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAS previously identified by France, Germany and Spain. Powered by two jet engines and with a 28m (91.8ft) wingspan, the aircraft was to have had a maximum take-off weight of around 7t and to have been flown at altitudes up to 50,000ft.


EADS originally saw an opportunity to produce 15 of the systems under a European programme worth around €3 billion ($3.9 billion), but spent the past two years unsuccessfully lobbying its now cash-strapped expected customers. It also made an attempt to market the aircraft to the Royal Air Force, rebranding it as the "X-UAS", but the UK instead backed a collaborative venture between BAE Systems and France's Dassault.



photo Craig Hoyle/Flightglobal

photo Craig Hoyle/Flightglobal


The Talarion-based "X-UAS" concept failed to attract interest from the UK


Cassidian chief executive Stefan Zoller has long seen the UAS sector as an engine for major growth at Cassidian, and the company is to continue work using its Barracuda unmanned combat air vehicle technology demonstrator. The aircraft is due to undergo a new programme of system flight tests later this year in Goose Bay, Canada.


Speaking earlier this month, Cassidian head of technology and research Aimo Bülte said the company's interest in unmanned systems also currently includes researching increased airframe and sensor autonomy, adaptive control techniques and the use of new materials and embedded sensors.


"We will continue to talk to our potential customers and interested industrial partners in order to secure key technologies for a joint European MALE programme," Cassidian says. The company has previously signed agreements with Italy's Alenia Aermacchi and Turkish Aerospace Industries to collaborate on such an activity. It also earlier this year established a new UAS joint venture with Germany's Rheinmetall Defence, in which it holds a 51% stake.

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7 mars 2012 3 07 /03 /mars /2012 13:25


model of the Seeker 400 carrying two Mokopa anti-tank

missiles - photo Denel Dynamics


March 7, 2012 defpro.com


The prototype of Denel Dynamics’ latest Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV), the Seeker 400, has been completed and is due to make its maiden flight in the first quarter of 2012. It is a long-endurance tactical UAV. “The decision by Denel to consider investing in this new product was mainly based on requirements globally of such a capability. Based on the business case, Denel decided to fund the development from its balance sheet. The nation is waiting in anticipation for the first flight.” says Tsepo Monaheng, Executive for Denel UAVs.


Although the US and Israel dominate the global market, there is scope for South Africa to use local skills to create market-leading UAVs to the broad spectrum of nations (from developing to developed) – a market estimated at US $14bn per annum. The RSA UAV industry aims to capture in excess of 20% of this end of the market.


The aircraft has already been displayed in mock-up form at the Africa Aerospace and Defence Show (AAD) 2010, in Cape Town South Africa. There is already a launch customer for the Seeker 400 who operated the Seeker I tactical UAV in the early 1990s. The other two countries which currently operate the Seeker II are also interested in the Seeker 400 because the new aircraft can be controlled by simply using their existing Seeker II control stations.


Though it utilizes the Seeker II architectural design, the Seeker 400 is a totally new aircraft. The Seeker 400 is much larger and much more capable than the Seeker II. It provides a variety of operational options. It is deployable in most conditions, including taking off from an unprepared piece of land.


Monaheng describes the Seeker 400 as a “typical entry-level” towards the long-endurance UAV (MALE). It can stay in the air for 16 hours and can simultaneously operate two payloads. Currently, it has a range of 250 km, because it uses only line-of-sight communications, but it could be upgraded to use satellite communications, which would allow it to operate at much greater ranges. With the use of the existing tactical ground station (TGS), the range may be extended to 750km. The Seeker 400 flight test programme will run for most of 2012, and production should start by the end of that year.


Denel Dynamics plans, in due course, to add weapons to the Seeker 400. The prototype was recently displayed at the company’s 2011 ‘Show and Tell’ briefing in Centurion with a Mokopa antitank missile (also a Denel Dynamics product) under each wing. A number of countries have already expressed interest in an armed version of the UAV.


The Seeker 400 was originally conceived as an upgrade of the Seeker II (hence, the name) but, as the project developed, the company realized that a totally new and larger aircraft would do better in the market. The retention of the name ‘Seeker’ also takes advantage of the Seeker II’s established brand.


The Seeker 400 programme schedule is on track. The medium-altitude, long-endurance (Male) UAV project, the Bateleur, has not been abandoned but is currently on hold; this is to allow for a focused development of the Seeker 400.


Globally, UAVs are becoming ever more important and ever more widely used. Although costs are coming down, UAVs are not necessarily cheaper or easier to operate than crewed aircraft – some top-of- the-range UAVs are very expensive, indeed – but the fact that they have no human on board means they can be sent into high-risk environments without any qualms and they can be kept aloft much longer than a conventional aircraft.


The availability of capable and affordable South African UAVs triggers the enhancement of not only national security, but crime fighting, disaster management, election monitoring and search and rescue. UAVs even provide benefits to the agricultural, mining, health and environmental sectors. Within the next five years UAVs will be used by a diversity of industries from policing poachers on land and coastlines, carrying test specimens from remote clinics to laboratories for analysis, to keeping an eye on livestock on farms, and will prove to be a lucrative parallel market for international UAV players.


Foreign experience in combat zones has established that the key service that UAVs provide to ground force commanders is live video coverage. This provides them with real time surveillance, intelligence and target acquisition as well as much better situational awareness. The French Army has reported that, in Afghanistan, UAVs have saved the lives of its soldiers and some 80% of its UAV missions are to protect its troops. Indeed, it is now known that one of the operators of the Seeker II has deployed these UAVs under UN command in a foreign country.



Denel Dynamics is an exhibitor at Defence and Security Asia 2012, Thailand. On display will be the new Seeker 400 which is scheduled to take its maiden flight this year. Another product is the 5th generation air-to-air missile, A-Darter, due for production in 2013.

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28 février 2012 2 28 /02 /février /2012 13:30
Sagem décroche un contrat pour les drones de l’armée de terre

27 février 2012 par Astrid Gouzik L’USINE NOUVELLE


La filiale du groupe aéronautique Safran a remporté un contrat de maintenance pour les Sperwer de l’armée de terre française.


C’est donc Sagem qui sera en charge des activités de maintenance, de réparation et de support technique des drones tactiques Sperwer. Le contrat court jusqu’en 2014. Le système Sperwer est utilisé en Afghanistan depuis 2003. Il vient renforcer les forces aéroterrestres de l’OTAN.


"A ce jour, Sagem a développé et produit plus de 25 systèmes de drones tactiques Sperwer et 140 véhicules aériens", précise le groupe.


Par la même occasion, Sagem a enregistré une commande pour deux "catapultes pneumatiques tractées".  "Plus légères et compactes que les catapultes de première génération, elles permettent de réduire l'empreinte au sol du système en opérations, de diminuer les coûts d'exploitation, de faciliter les catapultages, et d'accroître la charge embarquée en vue d'une autonomie accrue", vante le communiqué.

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16 février 2012 4 16 /02 /février /2012 13:00
NATO to spend 3.0 billion euros on drone program


Feb 15, 2012 Spacewar.com (AFP)


Brussels - NATO will spend 3.0 billion euros ($3.9 billion) to buy and operate five US-built drones over 20 years in an effort to fill a gap exposed in the Libyan air war, an official said Wednesday.


Allies will pay at least 1.0 billion euros to acquire the Global Hawk drones from Northrop Grumman, a price that includes ground support stations, image analysis technology and training for operators, the official said.


Operating the drones, which will be based at the NATO base in Sigonella, Sicily, will cost the alliance another 2.0 billion euros over the next two decades, the official said on condition of anonymity.


"Libya showed the importance of having such a capability," the official said.


While European air forces carried out the bulk of bombing missions in Libya last year, they relied heavily on drones provided by the United States to identify and hit targets during the campaign.


NATO defence ministers finally agreed on the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) after two decades of wrangling over its funding.


The drones are being purchased by 13 NATO nations: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States.


The aircraft will then be available to all 28 allies who will contribute to the cost of operating them. France and Britain will mostly contribute by providing their own surveillance aircraft to the programme.


NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has hailed the AGS programme as a prime example of the alliance's efforts to pool and share resources at a time of economic crisis chipping away at defence budgets.

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15 février 2012 3 15 /02 /février /2012 08:30
Canada Pulls Out of NATO’s AGS Project


Feb. 14, 2012 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: Windsor Star; published Feb. 10, 2012)


Canada Backs Out of NATO Project


The Canadian government has withdrawn from a NATO surveillance project that would incorporate similar technology used in NATO's successful military operation in Libya.


"Canada is withdrawing from the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance program, with our full withdrawal to become effective in spring of 2012," said Kim Tulipan, spokeswoman for the Department of National Defence.


"NATO has been informed of these decisions. The details of our withdrawal are still under discussion with NATO," she said in an email to Postmedia News.


The Alliance Ground Surveillance System, which began in 1992, "will give commanders a comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground,"according to NATO's website. "NATO's operation to protect civilians in Libya showed how important such a capability is."


Under the program, 13 countries, including the U.S., Italy and Germany, will acquire five reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles, in addition to associated command and control base stations. The surveillance system will be available by 2015-2017.


NATO will operate the system on behalf of its 28 allies.


On Feb. 2, the North Atlantic Council decided to collectively cover the costs of operating the surveillance program as a "NATO-owned and operated capability," according to NATO's website.


The surveillance system's main operating base will be in Italy.

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14 février 2012 2 14 /02 /février /2012 17:50
U-2 Defeats The Robots Again

photo USAF


February 14, 2012: STRATEGY PAGE


The U.S. Air Force, faced with substantial budget cuts, has cancelled orders for 18 RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs. At the same time, the retirement of its U-2S reconnaissance aircraft has been delayed once again. Last year it was decided to keep the U-2 in service until 2016. Now the U-2 will keep flying until 2020, or later. The reason is the continued failure of the RQ-4 to prove it can replace the manned U-2. Moreover, the air force has been battling the RQ-4 manufacturer for years over reliability, capability and price issues. The basic problem was that the Global Hawk was never able to come close to the capabilities and reliability of the U-2. Although the U-2, which entered service 56 years ago, carries a pilot, it also carries more weight and has more than twice as much electrical power (for more capable sensors) than the RQ-4. The air force will keep over 50 RQ-4s in service, but the cancelled RQ-4s is a wakeup call to the manufacturer to do better, or lose even more sales.


It wasn't just the U.S. Air Force that was havening problems with the RQ-4. South Korea wanted to buy several of them, but eventually backed off as the price kept going up and delivery dates became increasingly vague. Instead of having their own long range recon aircraft, South Korea is looking for smaller substitutes. This might be Israeli Herons or American Reapers. Meanwhile, U-2s will continue to watch North Korea. The three American U-2s stationed in South Korea generally carry out one sortie a day. The cameras and electronic eavesdropping gear can record or photograph North Korean military activity up to a hundred kilometers north of the DMZ (the DeMilitarized Zone) that separates the two Koreas. In an emergency two or even all three U-2s can be put in the air.


Its popularity is running the U-2s ragged. Several U-2s have been in service over 40 years and spent nearly 30,000 hours in the air. One of these aircraft had made three belly (landing gear up) landings, requiring extensive rebuilding after each incident.



With a range of over 11,000 kilometers, the 18 ton U-2s typically fly missions 12 hours long. All U-2s have been upgraded to the Block 20 standard, so they can be kept in service until the end of this decade. Or at least until the 13 ton Global Hawk, or some other UAV is completely debugged and available in sufficient quantity to replace it.


The U-2 has been in service since 1955 and only 86 were built, of which 26 remain in service. Less than 900 pilots have qualified to fly the U-2 in that time. The heavy use of the U-2 has been hard on the pilots. Missions can be as long as 12 hours and pilots operate in a cockpit pressurized to conditions found at 9,600 meters (30,000 feet). This puts more strain on the pilot's body. That, and the fact that they breathe pure oxygen while up there, means they tend to be completely exhausted after returning from a long mission. U-2s also fly missions daily over the Middle East and Afghanistan.

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14 février 2012 2 14 /02 /février /2012 13:00
Unmanned systems lead IAI push for international growth

IAI Ben Gurion facility – photo Israel Aerospace industries


Feb 14, 2012 by Zach Rosenberg  - Flight Global


Tel Aviv - Like all of the Middle Eastern nation's defence companies, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is in a delicate predicament: it cannot reveal much of its clientele, and Israeli politics - internal and external - put major limitations on what it can sell, and where.


Many of the governments buying IAI equipment, including major customers buying top-shelf systems, do not speak publicly about their purchases, and IAI does not disclose them.


"I can tell you no-one bought from Israel because they like us, or they love us," says Tommy Silberring, general manager of IAI's Malat division, which manufactures its UAVs. "They buy from us because we have a capability that is maybe better in price, or because we have the flexibility to enable that country to integrate their own systems."


IAI is not only the country's largest defence company, but also one of the major drivers of high technology in a place famous for its technological prowess. Its 17,000 employees are divided into six divisions, three concerned with military projects and three with civil work. IAI's backlog is valued at $10.6 billion and in January the manufacturer disclosed its largest order ever, valued at $1.6 billion and covering a range of systems including Heron 1 UAVs, Harop stand-off munitions and Green Pine radars.


Among the civil divisions, Bedek is pre-eminent. Based at IAI's facility besides Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Bedek is mainly concerned with passenger-to-cargo conversions of the Boeing 737, 747 and 767, a roster to which additions are under consideration. Maintenance, repair and operations work is also a major contributor to IAI's bottom line.




IAI also produces G150, G200 and G280 midsize business jets for Gulfstream. The aircraft are built in Tel Aviv and flown to the USA for interior outfitting. The G280 is the latest offering. After a four-year development programme the aircraft has earned approval from the Israeli civil aviation authority, but is not yet certified with the US Federal Aviation Administration or European Aviation Safety Agency. Despite what is widely acknowledged as expectation-exceeding performance, the depressed market for new midsize business jets and correspondingly small order book means it may be some time before IAI comes anywhere near recouping its development costs.


The Israeli Defence Force is in the middle of a highly competitive $1 billion contest for an advanced trainer aircraft to replace its aged Douglas A-4 Skyhawks. As whichever trainer is eventually selected will be operated by IAI, the company stands to gain either way. The field has narrowed to two competitors: Italy's Alenia Aermacchi M346 and South Korea's KAI T-50. The governments of both nations are long-time customers for various IAI products, and both nations have threatened to look elsewhere for equipment should their products not be selected. Preliminary indications are that Italy has the favoured product.


Unmanned systems lead IAI push for international growth

German Luftwaffe IAI Heron, photo Israel Aerospace industries

UAV contests in Canada and Germany could yield quick divdends for the Heron


Special-mission aircraft - regular aircraft packed full of specialised electronics - have been particularly lucrative for IAI. Its offerings include heavily modified Gulfstream Vs for airborne early warning (AEW), signals intelligence and synthetic aperture radar. Several deals are potentially forthcoming, and Italy has reportedly committed to buy two of the AEW aircraft if Aermacchi wins its trainer bid.


IAI's bread and butter is UAVs for export. Widely considered to be among the inventors of the modern UAV, IAI remains on the cutting edge of international markets in that area. It offers a more diverse array of UAVs than any other manufacturer in Israel, ranging from a tiny hand-launched aircraft, the Mosquito, to the Heron TP, a large medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) aircraft capable of staying in the air for two days.


In keeping with the tradition of Israeli defence companies, almost 80% of its sales are made abroad. India, one of the world's largest and fastest-growing defence markets, is a particularly loyal customer of IAI's. India operates around 50 Heron UAVs with IAI-developed radar and optical payloads, plus a number of IAI-modified special-mission aircraft. "India is one of our biggest markets," confirms Silberring.




Other countries operating the Heron include Australia, France, Germany and Brazil. Most operators have only a handful of aircraft on a lease basis, many for operations over Afghanistan, but IAI is angling for purchases. France has selected a version of the aircraft co-produced with Dassault, called the Harfang, for purchase, despite blistering criticism from the French senate. In each of these contests the aircraft faces competition from the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Predator B, the only other large MALE aircraft available on the international market. However, the arena is likely to get more crowded as other companies - particularly Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems - bring their own offerings to the table. But for the meantime IAI has a lock on non-NATO countries.


IAI's electronics division, Elta, is the fourth-largest radar manufacturer in the world, providing systems for both IAI's products and those of others. Ironically, despite it being among the early adaptors of solid-state electronics, Elta's most sought-after and profitable services are for older technology. Many of IAI's customers are simply not in the market for cutting-edge technology.


"We thought that we would phase out of [TWT, transmitting wave tube] technology, and we actually moved long ago into solid-state technology," says Igal Karney, Elta's manager of marketing and sales. "But still there are so many systems in the field, so the need for TWT has even increased."


Rumours that IMI, a state-owned munitions company, may be primed for acquisition are emerging in defence circles. Members of the Israeli government occasionally make public statements about partial or total privatisation. Such changes have been floated for years, but Israel's falling defence budget may finally be the requisite catalyst.


Either way, change of one sort or another is coming to IAI. Its president Yitzhak Nissan, who has held the post for six years, is leaving his position after a semi-public fight with the chairman of the board. Two board members are following. But whether this results in any major changes to business strategy or product road-maps is yet to be seen.


Still, IAI has entered 2012 with a strong outlook. UAV contests in Canada, Germany and Australia could yield quick dividends for the Heron, and a number of smaller, somewhat more opaque contests in smaller nations also offer potential.

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7 février 2012 2 07 /02 /février /2012 08:40
NATO clears funding hurdle to buy five Global Hawks


Feb 6, 2012 by Stephen Trimble – Flight Global


Washington DC - NATO officials have cleared a key hurdle in a long-delayed process to buy five Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40 unmanned air systems.


NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen provided no details of the arrangements in a 3 February press conference, but confirmed members "have found the way ahead on a practical funding solution" for the alliance ground surveillance (AGS) programme.


Funding and operational details have delayed a contract signing since October 2010, even as three of the original 15 AGS programme members - Canada, Denmark and Poland - have withdrawn from the programme.


Northrop officials have previously said Poland may rejoin the AGS partnership, but Rasmussen provided no details on the current members.


NATO's AGS fleet will comprise five radar-equipped Global Hawk Block 40s


Some NATO members have been seeking the AGS capability for about 20 years. The concept would allow a consortium of alliance members to contribute funding to operate the RQ-4s, with all allowed some level of access to the intelligence data gathered.


Northrop has proposed the RQ-4 Block 40, which includes a Northrop/Raytheon multiplatform radar technology insertion programme sensor that detects moving targets on the ground.


Once fielded, the system will perform a similar role as the US Air Force's Northrop E-8C joint surveillance target attack radar system aircraft, although the RQ-4's sensor is not as large or powerful.

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5 février 2012 7 05 /02 /février /2012 08:15
Estonia Joins NATO Ground Surveillance Network


TALLINN, February 4 (RIA Novosti)


Estonia will be part of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) project, the country’s Defense Ministry said.


The North Atlantic Council decided on February 2 to collectively cover the costs for operating the AGS network as a NATO-owned and operated capability.


The AGS will be acquired by 13 Allies (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States), and will be made available to the Alliance in 2015-2017.


The network will include five U.S.-made Global Hawk RQ-4B reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and the associated command and control base stations.


“The AGS core capability will enable the Alliance to perform persistent surveillance over wide areas from high-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned aerial platforms operating at considerable stand-off distances and in any weather or light condition,” NATO said.


The main operating base for AGS will be located at Sigonella Air Base in Italy.

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3 février 2012 5 03 /02 /février /2012 18:25
NATO to Acquire Unmanned Aircraft

Feb. 3, 2012 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: Norwegian Ministry of Defence; issued Feb. 3, 2012)
(Issued in Norwegian only; unofficial translation by defense-aerospace.com)

NATO Defence ministers have made a very important decision to acquire unmanned aircraft for surveillance of land and oceans - NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS).

“Common solutions have tied NATO together for over 60 years and give the nations of the Alliance access to strategic capabilities that are disproportionately expensive to acquire alone. This decision is therefore a very good example of why it is important for Norway to join the NATO,” says Norwegian Defence Minister Espen Barth Eide.

It is important that the Alliance has real time information about the situation on the ground and at sea. AGS will give NATO the ability to monitor large areas from high altitude, long range under all weather and lighting conditions. The monitoring is done with unmanned aircraft of the type of the Global Hawk, which has a range of 16,000 kilometers and can fly at altitudes up to 60,000 feet. The aircraft will be controlled from a ground station in Italy.

“NATO nations show, with this decision, that there is a political will to work together to invest in public safety, despite the difficult economic situation that affects many countries,” said Minister of Defence Espen Barth Eide.

Norway's share of the investment is estimated at 320 million. The acquisition will also provide contracts for Norwegian industry.

NATO will own and operate the unmanned surveillance aircraft. In addition, to meeting military surveillance needs, the aircraft will have the capacity to contribute to the monitoring of large ocean areas, transportation routes, oil and gas installations and environmental monitoring. This is a capacity that will also be suitable in the far North.

It is expected that the aircraft will be operational in 2017.

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27 janvier 2012 5 27 /01 /janvier /2012 08:55
DoD cuts RQ-4 Blk 30, spares other UAVs

Jan 26, 2012 by Zach Rosenberg – Flight Global

Washington DC - Northrop Grumman projects advance despite a budget cut to one of the company's highest-profile programmes. The RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 will be cut, according to media reports. The aged Lockheed Martin U-2, which the Block 30 is intended to replace, will continue to fly for the foreseeable future. Fourteen Block 30s aircraft have been delivered, with the government committed to another seven aircraft. The total inventory will effectively be capped at 21 aircraft, a cut of 10 from the most recently-provided total.

"The Block 30 priced itself out of the niche for taking pictures from the air," said Ashton Carter, under secretary of defense of acquisition, technology and logistics. "That's the fate of things that become too expensive in a resource-constrained environment."

The project has twice breached the Nunn-McCurdy Act, requiring justification if a programme is more than 25% over budget, and has received mixed reviews in official evaluations.

Another variant of the troubled Global Hawk programme, the Block 40, of which the Air Force has ordered 11, will continue unabated. The Navy's MQ-4C broad area maritime surveillance (BAMS) variant, similar in configuration to the Block 30, will also continue.

The General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Predator series of systems, including the MQ-1B Predator, MQ-9A Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle, were spared major changes. The DoD will continue with plans to procure 65 combat air patrols (CAP) of Reapers, with each system comprised of four aircraft a piece. The Air Force will be able to surge to 85 CAPs, though details of where the aircraft will come from were not immediately available.

Northrop released a statement saying the company was "disappointed with the Pentagon's decision, and plans to work with the Pentagon to assess alternatives to program termination."

Despite the setback, Northrop continues to advance BAMS and other programmes. The multi-function active sensor (MFAS) radar made its first flight, and there are no intentions of delaying the aircraft buy. The first aircraft is under construction, scheduled for first flight in the second quarter of 2012.

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27 janvier 2012 5 27 /01 /janvier /2012 08:05
Northrop Grumman Statement on the Global Hawk Block 30 Program

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Jan. 26, 2012 – Northrop Grumman Corporation

Northrop Grumman Corporation has released the following statement on the Global Hawk Block 30 program:

    "The Pentagon announced today that it is planning to cancel the Global Hawk Block 30 program and plans to perform this mission with the U-2 aircraft. Northrop Grumman is disappointed with the Pentagon's decision, and plans to work with the Pentagon to assess alternatives to program termination.

    "The Global Hawk program has demonstrated its utility in U.S. military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, as well as its utility in humanitarian operations in Japan and Haiti. Just a few months ago, the Pentagon published an acquisition decision memorandum regarding Global Hawk Block 30 that stated: 'The continuation of the program is essential to the national security… there are no alternatives to the program which will provide acceptable capability to meet the joint military requirement at less cost.'

    "Global Hawk is the modern solution to providing surveillance. It provides long duration persistent surveillance, and collects information using multiple sensors on the platform. In contrast, the aging U-2 program, first introduced in the 1950s, places pilots in danger, has limited flight duration, and provides limited sensor capacity. Extending the U-2's service life also represents additional investment requirements for that program.

    "Northrop Grumman is committed to working with our customers to provide the best solutions for our country and our allies. We are pleased with the continuing support for the Global Hawk Block 40 system, as well as for the Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance system and our other unmanned systems."

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26 janvier 2012 4 26 /01 /janvier /2012 17:38
photo Sirpa Air

photo Sirpa Air

le 26/01/2012 Air & Cosmos

En créant une joint-venture dans les drones avec Rheimetall, Cassidian se postitionne en fédérateur européen et capitalise sur le Harfang.


Dans la joint-venture annoncée vendredi avec Rheinmetall dans le domaine des drones, Cassidian ne se contentera pas d’une part initiale -déjà majoritaire- de 51% : selon nos sources, la firme prévoit déjà und augmentation prochaine de la prise de contrôle. Rheinmetall semble considérer que mettre ces activités sous la houlette de la division défense d’EADS leur assurera plus de pérennité dans un secteur où la diversité des acteurs se heurte à la restriction des budgets.


De son côté, Cassidian n’a de cesse d’être reconnu comme le fédérateur européen des drones, par opposition à une alliance franco-britannique qui favoriserait Dassault et BAE Systems. L’accord intervient ainsi après le rachat en octobre de la PME française Surveycopter, puis en décembre le protocole d’accord avec Alenia pour une possible coopération dans les drones Male (Moyenne Altitude Longue Endurance) et de combat, sans compter l’accord avec le Turc TAI autour du projet de Talarion.
Et le fait que Rheinmetall, en plus de fabriquer le drone tactique KZO, soit responsable de l’exploitation du Heron 1 d’IAI pour les forces allemandes dans le programme Saateg n’est pas anodin.


Car Cassidian ne renonce pas au Harfang ( dérivé du Heron 1 francisé), bien que la France ait refusé sa proposition de Harfang « Nouvelle Génération » modernisé au profit du plus gros Heron TP francisé par Dassault. Notant qu’en France comme en Allemagne, Harfang et Heron 1 arrivent à échéance fin 2013 en n’ayant épuisé « que 10% du potentiel du véhicule aérien », EADS s’appuierait bien sur une mutualisation des coûts fixes entre les deux pays pour jouer les prolongations. Et de noter que le Harfang serait qualifié pour une exploitation sur le territoire national allemand, contrairement au Heron 1… Tout cela même si, officiellement, l’alliance n’invalide pas la proposition faite par Rheinmetall à l’Allemagne de succéder au Heron 1 avec du Heron TP.

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20 janvier 2012 5 20 /01 /janvier /2012 13:35
NATO to sign delayed AGS deal by May

Nato AGS – photo Northrop Grumman

January 20th, 2012 by Craig Hoyle - Flight Global

London - NATO's long-running process to order an Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) capability could at last achieve a contract signature within the next few months, although the scale of its programme appears to have again been revised.

"We have the contract, and it's under negotiation," said US Air Force Maj Gen Steve Schmidt, commander of the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force. A 13-nation deal should be signed before the next NATO summit, in Chicago from 20-21 May, he added.

"I fully expect to see the announcement that NATO has purchased AGS by that summit," Schmidt told the AEW and Battle Management conference in London on 17 January.

Schmidt valued the pending acquisition at about €1 billion ($1.3 billion) for five Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40 unmanned air vehicles, each equipped with a Northrop/Raytheon surveillance payload. An associated 20-year operational support package is expected to total a further €2.2 billion, he added.

This assessment contrasts with a previous plan, which had called for the purchase of six Global Hawks, to be operated from NAS Sigonella in Sicily from later this decade. Northrop officials last October said a deal was expected to be signed in early November 2011.

Although NATO was able to access information from a USAF Global Hawk that flew a limited number of sorties during last year's Libya campaign, Schmidt said the availability of an Alliance-owned fleet "would have been a game-changer" during the seven months of Operation Unified Protector.

Beyond its application during such coalition operations in the future, Schmidt said additional uses for the AGS fleet would include crisis management and cooperative security tasks.

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17 janvier 2012 2 17 /01 /janvier /2012 19:13
EADS : des mesures d'économies pourraient avantager le projet Talarion

17/01/2012 Kaveri Niththyananthan, Dow Jones Newswires – Zonebourse.com

Le président exécutif d'EADS, Louis Gallois, a déclaré mardi que les projets tels que le drone Talarion pourraient être dopés par des économies réalisées ailleurs.

Cassidian, filiale de défense et de sécurité d'EADS, autofinance le développement du Talarion.

Un drone concurrent, baptisé Telemos, est développé par BAE Systems et Dassault Aviation.

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17 janvier 2012 2 17 /01 /janvier /2012 08:55
France Offers Heron for NATO Role - Will Sign Deal To Buy UAV By Year's End


Dassault is negotiating with Israel Aerospace Industries on the contract for the Heron TP, which the French company would then deliver to French authorities. (Israel Aerospace Industries)

16 Jan 2012 By PIERRE TRAN DefenseNews

PARIS - France is offering the Heron TP as its contribution in kind to the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance program, but technical and financial problems related to adapting the medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV to French standards are holding up a deal with Dassault and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), industrial and political sources said.

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet told the French aerospace journalists' press club that the deal would be sealed by "the end of 2012."

That's later than expected by industry and parliamentary sources, who had thought the controversial contract would be signed before the presidential elections starting in April.

Dassault is negotiating with IAI on the contract for the Heron TP, which the French company would then deliver to French authorities.

"There are many difficulties" on adapting the Heron TP, driving the cost above the 320 million euro ($408 million) budget, a parliamentary source said. An extra 150 million euros each for Dassault and Thales has been estimated for the modifications, the source said.

That would push the cost to 620 million euros, approaching the 700 million euro price tag of a previous Dassault offer of the Système de Drone MALE.

The Defense Ministry has asked Dassault to submit a technical-financial proposal on the Heron TP at the end of the month.

Among the key modifications are a satellite communications link and de-icing equipment, vital to plugging the UAV into the French - and NATO - network and fly in the northern European climate, the industry executive said.

Procurement officials are working hard to make progress on the UAV case, and one option might be to acquire the Heron TP with little or no modification, the executive said.

That might create problems of interoperability within NATO as Paris has offered the Heron TP as its asset contribution, instead of paying cash, toward maintaining the AGS system, the executive said.

Although 13 nations are acquiring AGS, based on the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAV, all 28 alliance members help maintain the system in return for access to AGS information.

"The AGS package is still being discussed at NATO," an alliance press officer said. "It is a topic to be discussed in the February meeting of defense ministers."

NATO has long sought to launch the AGS program, intended to provide commanders with a common operational picture.

France has had a troubled relationship with AGS, as Paris looked to gain a big technological role. The planned AGS system relies on five Global Hawks to provide radar and optical pictures of conditions the ground, and a network of transportable ground stations. The UAVs will be based at Sigonella airbase, Italy.

The choice of the Heron TP sparked resistance in the French Senate, which argued for acquisition of General Atomics' Reaper on grounds of cost, performance and interoperability with allied forces.

Longuet defended the choice of the Israeli UAV as "a compromise between capability and a long-term interest for industrial policy," he told the press club.

"We could have found a cheaper, more efficient, quicker solution, but at the [unacceptable] price of long-term dependence," he said.

Longuet denied that most of the contract value would go to IAI, saying that air vehicle is the smallest part of the system, with communication and observation more important.

The government argues that adapting the Heron TP to French needs will help develop competences among about 10 domestic companies in high-value areas, particularly in communications. Critics of the choice say there would be more work for French companies on the Reaper, pitched by EADS and General Atomics.

"No proposition was made by Reaper, which did not want to share, nor to adapt to French standards," Longuet said.

General Atomics did not make a formal offer because France did not send a letter of request, an industry executive said.

In 2010, the U.S. company signed a technical-assistance agreement with EADS detailing its offer, the executive said. The agreement listed modifications, including a communications link developed by French equipment firm Zodiac for the Harfang UAV flying in Afghanistan.

General Atomics also wrote in June 2011 to French Sens. Jacques Gautier and Daniel Reiner, setting out a $209 million offer for seven air vehicles, ground gear and service support.

The government, however, sees Dassault as holding a key position on a strategic roadmap intended to ensure interoperability in observation, surveillance, targeting and air power. That position stems from its work on the Rafale and Anglo-French cooperation, in the government's view.

Longuet said risk-reduction work on the Heron TP would start in 2013.

Dassault and DGA were unavailable for comment.

On a proposed new MALE UAV to be developed with Britain, Longuet urged a pan-European rather than a strictly bilateral approach.

The project "should accept the construction of Europe," he said. "We can't ignore countries with industrial capabilities. We'll probably have an Anglo-French project, which cannot avoid opening to other European partners."

On the Anglo-French cooperation treaty, Longuet said, a new date for a summit meeting would be set for before his birthday on Feb. 24.

"There are no doubts on defense," he said on relations between London and Paris.

EADS and Finmeccanica signed a deal in December to team on UAV development, reflecting wider discontent in Italy and Germany over the Anglo-French defense accord.

France would not develop the EADS Talarion Advanced UAV, Longuet said.

One way of bringing a European dimension into the planned Anglo-French MALE UAV would be to integrate it into the European combat aircraft environment, dominated by the Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale aircraft, Longuet said.

"If we're intelligent, we should say, 'You British work on Eurofighter with Germany, Italy and Spain, and we'll work on Rafale,'" he said. "It would be good if the MALE UAV were to be compatible with one and the other."

Other Programs

France will buy the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) from Airbus "in 2013 for delivery four years later," Longuet said, leaving Boeing out in the cold.

Longuet dismissed previous official denials that Airbus had been chosen as "semantic elegance."

The U.S. Air Force's $35 billion pick of Boeing over Airbus for its KC-X tender effectively shut the door on a French tender.

France is expected to order five to seven A330 MRTT units in a first-batch order that could total 14.

Paris had been considering leasing part of Britain's A330 tanker fleet, but the Libyan air campaign led French authorities to decide they wanted their own aircraft.

On domestic consolidation, Thales would likely take a 10 percent to 20 percent stake in Nexter in exchange for handing over its TDA Armements mortar and munitions business to the land systems specialist, Longuet said.

Thales' holding would be significant but would not leave Nexter "dependent," he said.

Answering a question on anxiety at DCNS, where Thales is raising its stake in the naval company to 35 percent from 25 percent, Longuet said, "Thales is not the obligatory supplier of systems. DCNS can choose its systems."

DCNS makes naval combat management systems, and executives fear Thales will impose its own products, relegating the company to being a platform maker.

Nexter and DCNS had to forge European alliances to compete with companies from emerging economies such as Brazil, but first they had to consolidate their domestic base, Longuet said. Nexter had to look to German partners, as that was where the land sector was strong, he said.

Asked about the health of French defense companies, Longuet said, "Thales is a company necessarily in more peril because it is innovative on creative subjects on a world scale. It is more difficult. It has to take risks and goes through periods of uncertainty."

Regarding arms exports, the 2011 total for France would be around 6.5 billion euros, helped by an Indian contract for modernization of its Mirage 2000 fighters, Longuet said. That compared with 5.12 billion in 2010.

In October, procurement chief Laurent Collet-Billon had told lawmakers in October he expected 2011 export sales to reach 7.5 billion euros.

On export prospects for the Rafale, Longuet said a UAE decision to pick the Rafale would help sell the fighter to Kuwait and Qatar, which want to be interoperable with their neighbor's Air Force.

"They are interested" but would not be the first to commit, he said. "If they think no decision is being made [by UAE], they will look elsewhere."

Kuwait is looking at acquiring 18 to 22 jet fighters, with Qatar potentially 24, industry executives said, according to La Tribune.

The Defense Ministry appeared to harbor worries about Qatar raising its stake in Lagardère, the family-controlled company which owns 7.5 percent of EADS.

"There are fewer problems in football than in military aeronautics," Longuet said. "It's a subject."

But the decision on Qatar's shareholding in Lagardère was up to the Finance Ministry, not the Defense Ministry, he said.

A Qatari sovereign fund holds 10.07 percent of Lagardère stock, making it the largest single stockholder in the French company, and has asked for a seat on the board. Qatar bought 70 percent of the Paris Saint Germain football club for 30 million euros in May.

Julian Hale in Brussels and Tom Kington in Rome contributed to this report.

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10 janvier 2012 2 10 /01 /janvier /2012 08:55
Gérard Longuet veut ouvrir le projet des drones MALE à d'autres industriels

09 janvier 2012 par Barbara Leblanc – L’USINE NOUVELLE

Au cours d’une rencontre avec des journalistes aéronautiques, le ministre de la Défense, Gérard Longuet, a précisé [que le projet des drones MALE] n’est pas réservé à Dassault et BAE Systems.

"Je pense que ce projet franco-britannique doit accepter l'idée que (...) nous sommes engagés dans la construction européenne et nous ne pouvons pas ignorer délibérément des pays qui font encore des efforts de défense et qui ont des capacités industrielles", estime le ministre Gérard Longuet.

Il semble donc revenir sur sa position initiale sur ce projet qui devrait être un des thèmes du prochain sommet franco-britannique prévu pour février. Il annonce notamment que Paris et Londres pourraient être en mesure dans les prochaines semaines de définir ce que doit être le programme MALE. Les deux pays devront encore s’accorder sur la manière d’y répondre, via un appel d’offres mondial ou en passant commande à des industriels européens.

"Nous disons aux Britanniques que nous souhaitons avoir une securité de long terme sur l'approvisionnement, ce qui nous conduit à privilégier les solutions industrielles s'appuyant sur les entreprises détenues par les Européens, explique le ministre. Les Britanniques ne sont pas hostiles mais ce n'est pas leur culture naturelle, (qui est) un appel d'offres mondial".

Le développement d’un drone MALE a été confié cet été à Dassault aviation en coopération avec le britannique BAE Systems au détriment d’EADS et de son drone Talarion. Une décision intervenue après la signature en novembre 2010 d’un traité franco-britannique de coopération militaire.

La division défense du groupe européen Cassidian a alors répondu en s’alliant avec le constructeur italien Alenia pour développer des drones de surveillance et de combat pour l’Allemagne et l’Italie. Le marché des drones MALE est actuellement dominé par les américains General Atomics et Lockheed Martin et les israéliens comme Israel Aerospace Industries.

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26 décembre 2011 1 26 /12 /décembre /2011 08:20
U-2 Holds Out Against The Robots



December 24, 2011: STRATEGY PAGE


The U.S. Air Force has again delayed the retirement of its U-2S reconnaissance aircraft. Now the U-2 may remain in service until 2016 or later. The reason is the continued failure of the Global Hawk UAV to prove it can replace the manned U-2. Congress wants the Global Hawk to pass tests proving it can do everything the U-2 can before the U-2, which entered service 56 years ago, is retired.


For the last five years the U.S. Air Force has been trying to replace its manned U-2 reconnaissance aircraft with the RQ-4 Global Hawk. This has not worked out well. In addition to the problems with Global Hawks' reliability and dependability, another issue has been in the superiority of the sensors carried by the U-2. So why not just install the U-2 sensors in the Global Hawk? The problem here is weight and space. The U-2 is a larger and heavier aircraft, and even with a pilot, has more carrying capacity. Air force suppliers keep promising that they have the problem solved but after several generations of Global Hawk sensor redesigns and improvements, it will still be a few years before the Global Hawk will be competitive and the U-2 will be out of a job.


Then there's the UAV software, which has still not matched the capabilities of pilots. The humans still have an edge over robotic systems, especially when it comes to emergencies. But another advantage that the U-2 has is that it has been around for half a century. Its quirks and foibles are well known. The Global Hawk is not only new but is also the first of a new kind of robotic aircraft.


Global Hawk has crossed the Pacific, from North America to Australia, using onboard computers to run everything. While impressive, Global Hawk still has a tendency to get into trouble unexpectedly and not know how to recover. More work needs to be done on the software and, to a lesser extent, the hardware used by Global Hawk. Since no one can (or at least will) swear when Global hawk reliability will be up to acceptable standards plans are being made to keep the U-2s around for a while longer - just in case.


This popularity is running the U-2s ragged. Two years ago, for example, two 41 year old U-2s achieved a record 25,000 hours in the air. One of these aircraft had made three belly (landing gear up) landings, requiring extensive rebuilding after each incident.


With a range of over 11,000 kilometers, the 18 ton U-2s typically fly missions 12 hours long. All U-2s have been upgraded to the Block 20 standard, so they can be kept in service until the end of this decade. Or at least until the 13 ton Global Hawk is completely debugged and available in sufficient quantity to replace it. The U-2 has been in service since 1955 and only 86 were built, of which 26 remain in service. Less than 900 pilots have qualified to fly the U-2 in that time.


The heavy use of the U-2 has been hard on the pilots. Missions can be as long as 12 hours and pilots operate in a cockpit pressurized to conditions found at 30,000 feet. This puts more strain on the pilot's body. That, and the fact that they breathe pure oxygen while up there, means they tend to be completely exhausted after returning from a long mission. U-2s fly missions daily over the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Korea.


This wasn't supposed to happen. Five years ago the U.S. Air Force wanted to retire its U-2s and replace them with UAVs like Global Hawk. But Congress refused to allow it, partly for political reasons (jobs would be lost, which is always a live political issue) and because some in Congress (and the air force) did not believe that Global Hawk was ready to completely replace the U-2. This turned out to be correct. New Global Hawks continue to appear but there is so much demand for the kind of recon work the two aircraft can do that both pilots and robots will coexist for a while. But eventually the old reliable U-2 will be retired.

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19 décembre 2011 1 19 /12 /décembre /2011 17:35
Kestrel to provide MTI capability for Australian Army's Shadow Operations

photo US DoD


Dec 19, 2011 ASDNews Source : Sentient Vision Systems


Automated Target Detection Solution on board the AAI Shadow 200 UAV Systems


Melbourne, Australia - 19 December 2011 - Under the Defence Capability Plan Joint Project (JP) 129 Phase 2, the Australian Army is acquiring two complete Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV) systems.


Sentient announced today that its automated target detection solution - Kestrel Land MTI - will actively support the TUAV systems in their surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition missions.


Operated by the 20 Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) Regiment, Kestrel Land MTI will assist Australian forces in analysing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) imagery from the AAI Shadow 200. The software processes the imagery in real time, automatically detecting small, moving targets such as dismounts and vehicles within the TUAV sensors' field of view.


The Army TUAV Capability Implementation Team, which is bringing the Shadow 200 into service, sees in Kestrel Land MTI a significant ISR capability enhancement.


The Shadow will be the Army's "eyes in the sky". Equipped with cutting-edge payload technology including advanced electro-optical and infrared sensors the Shadow will transmit real-time, full motion video (FMV) to the Ground Control Station (GCS) and remote video viewing devices. Kestrel will analyse the video footage and provide a real-time cue to operators on moving objects within the field of view.


This capability will enable the Army to effectively detect and respond to enemy targets, and thus protect Australian forces.


The Army has purchased three Kestrel Land MTI licenses for 20 STA Regiment, which will be deployed with the Shadow in Afghanistan early next year.


Sentient has been working closely with 20 STA Regiment and AAI over the past years and has successfully demonstrated Kestrel's automated target detection capability with the Shadow.


"Sentient's Kestrel Land MTI software has been in operation with Australian forces in Afghanistan now for over two years. It is that in-theatre experience in a variety of operational conditions that proved critical for the Australian Army." said Simon Olsen, Sales and Marketing Manager at Sentient.


Kestrel is currently supporting the Australian Army on board the ScanEagle which will remain in service in Afghanistan during the transition-in of the Shadow.

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