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  • Predator-B Export Opportunities
    Posted by Robert Wall 7:33 AM on Aug 05, 2008

    The Pentagon has notified Congress of further potential exports of Predator-B/Reaper UAVs to Europe. Italy and the U.K. are already using the General Atomics medium-altitude long-endurance vehicle.

    blog post photo

    (credit: U.K. RAF)

    Now, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency says Italy has expressed interest in four more of the drones, along with three ground control stations. The deal, with a five year maintenance package, would cost around $330 million. 

    Furthermore, DCSA has provided details on the offer on the table to Germany for Reapers. General Atomics has teamed with Diehl to bid the UAV, which is competing against the Heron-TP. Israel Aerospace Industries is teamed with Rheinmetall. The winner of the so called SAATEG program should be named this year, with fielding planned for 2010. 

    DCSA tells Congress that the offer to Germany includes five Reaper air vehicles, four mobile ground stations, and a one year maintenance package. The nominal contract value would be $205 million.

    Although one of the features of Reaper is its ability to deliver weapons, in Germany, for now, that's not politically acceptable, so the Reapers will not be armed -- so maybe the old Predator-B name applies better, in this case. 

    The U.K.also is considering further Predator purchases, although BAE Systems hopes to convince the government to instead invest in its Mantis UAV. For more on Mantis, read my colleague’s recent article in Aviation Week & Space Technology:

     

    BAE Eyes U.S. Opportunity for Mantis
    Aviation Week & Space Technology
    07/21/2008 , page 26
     
    Douglas Barrie
    Farnborough
     
    Britain’s Mantis long-endurance ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and strike UAV program will provide BAE Systems with a candidate platform to address upcoming U.S. requirements, and not only U.K. national needs.Mantis was unveiled on the opening day of the Farnborough air show, and is a key element of company work in the sector. BAE Systems and the Defense Ministry have been keeping Mantis related work under wraps for the past 18 months, although limited details began to emerge recently (see AW&ST July 7, p. 24).Mantis could provide the Defense Ministry with an alternative to further significant purchases of the General Atomics Predator B/Reaper UAV. London has so far ordered three under an urgent operational requirement, with the potential for considerably more. The compressed development schedule for Mantis also offers the promise of availability in a time frame not much beyond that of additional Predator B UAVs.Fabrication work on the airframe, which has a wingspan on the order of 70 ft., is already underway. Ground runs are anticipated before the end of this year, with a first flight scheduled for early 2009. Endurance for an operational variant of the Mantis would be around 30 hours, with the UAV operating at altitudes of 25,000-50,000 ft. says Mark Kane, BAE Systems managing director for autonomous systems.The company considered single and twin-engine designs for the Mantis requirement, before settling on the upper-fuselage stub-pylon twin engine configuration. This provides several advantages; one is the ability to loiter for long periods on only one of the two engines, while also offering greater assurance for eventually clearing the UAV for operation in non-segregated air space. The engine for the prototype is a variant of the Rolls-Royce Model 250. The intended powerplant for a production standard Mantis is yet to be determined. “It (the Model 250) is not going to be the final choice,” says Kane, “we’re assessing a range of engines.” The final choice could also be based on ongoing Rolls-Royce development work.

    Performance and dimension data for the Mantis has not yet been made public, but the intent is for a maximum cruise speed of 200-300 kt.Along with a pusher-prop approach, BAE Systems has also carried out limited concept work on a turbofan derivative of the basic design.The Mantis advanced concept technology demonstrator is intended to address Defense Ministry requirements for persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and for a long-endurance strike capability.The Mantis mock-up displayed had a total of six under-wing hardpoints, while wind-tunnel test items showed an eight pylon configuration. The forward fuselage hump would house a satellite communications antenna.The Mantis program is being run by the ministry’s Strategic UAV Experiment integrated project team (Suave).Kane says Spiral 1 of the Mantis program will cover integration of the image collection and sensor management system, along with “some sensors.” Spiral 1 will likely see the demonstrator fitted with an electro-optical (EO) payload. The Mantis is intended to eventually carry EO and infrared sensor payloads, as well as synthetic aperture radar. Spiral 2, which has yet to be formally approved, would include the integration of air-to-surface weapons.Air Marshal Simon Bollom, the Defense Ministry’s director general combat air, says “Mantis is a platform with which we can experiment.”The ministry may also use the Mantis demonstrator as part of its Project Morrigan work, examining the utility of UAVs, including in operational theaters. BAE Systems’ Herti tactical UAV was deployed to Kandahar AB in Afghanistanas part of Project Morrigan. Kane says that the Mantis project is a good example of the intent and aims outlined in the ministry’s Defense Industrial Strategy and the accompanying Defense Technology Strategy.Mantis could also provide a complement to a low-observable unmanned combat air vehicle as part of the ministry’s Deep and Persistent Offensive Capability force mix, either as an ISR element of a hunter-killer package, or as an armed loitering platform. The Suave IPT is also managing the BAE Systems-led Taranis low-observable UCAV demonstrator.Mantis could also provide a core platform element of the ministry’s Dabinett ISR architecture program, worth a total of nearly $2 billion. One element of Dabinett is a persistent ISR capability. Elements of Dabinett could be significantly revised around the turn of this year. This, however, is unlikely to affect the need for persistent ISR.

    Tags: ar99, Italy, Germany, Predator

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