FARNBOROUGH 2008: BAE Mantis offers Predator alternative

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BAE Systems will today undertake what it calls a ‘product’ reveal in its static park. This event is tied in with the company’s growing involvement in Unmanned Air Systems, and will see the unveiling of a mockup of a new UAV.

This is believed to be BAE Systems’ new Mantis medium altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV. Mantis is understood to be the result of a joint BAE/MoD study concept, and may be offered to meet the UK requirement for a deep and persistent capability within the over-arching Dabinett programme.

Mantis is understood to be an indigenous alternative to Predator and Reaper, and thus represents a continuation of BAE Systems’ efforts to break into an increasingly lucrative UAV market. The aircraft is intended for close air support and ISTAR intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance roles.

 mantis uav

This is, however, a sector in which many within the Strategic UAV Experiment (Suave) project team hope to build a long-endurance capability based around the General Atomics Reaper (Predator-B), which is already in service with the RAF’s No.39 Squadron.

The Mantis mockup is lurking underneath camouflage netting next to the BAE Pavilion (Hall 5), while a model of the design is inside the BAE exhibit – albeit shrouded in a low-tech black plastic bin-liner on Saturday and Sunday!

The life-size model has an unusual configuration, with a low-mounted high aspect ratio wing reminiscent of that of the Predator and Reaper, but with a T-tail and twin engines mounted on slender stub wings on the upper ‘corners’ of the fuselage. Each engine drives a small diameter four bladed pusher propeller. The tricycle undercarriage is relatively short, giving rather less ground clearance than that of the Predator, and the aircraft appears to have a ventral radome under the centre-section, with FLIR/sensor balls fore and aft.

The aircraft is displayed carrying single 500lb Enhanced Paveway IV dual mode GPS/laser guided bombs on its underwing pylons, though triple clusters of Hellfire missiles appear to be displayed adjacent to these, perhaps suggesting an alternative close air support loadout.