Poland picks Aeronautics' Aerostar for urgent UAV deal

Warsaw
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Poland has selected Aeronautics Defense Systems to meet an urgent requirement to provide unmanned air vehicles for reconnaissance and surveillance in Afghanistan.

Defence minister Bogdan Klich announced the selection of the Israeli company's Aerostar design under a contract worth 89 million zlotys ($30 million). The model was selected after a competition with Elbit Systems' Hermes 450 and Israel Aerospace Industries' Searcher III.

Aeronautics will deliver two Aerostar systems under the deal. Each will comprise four air vehicles, two ground control stations and autonomous take-off and landing equipment.

 
© Aeronautics Defense Systems

The first system should be deployed to Afghanistan's Ghazni province within the next seven months, the defence ministry says, with the other to be used for training in Poland.

Warsaw says the Aerostar UAV should deliver an endurance of 10h, and have an operating range of at least 200km (108nm). Aeronautics meanwhile expects to fly a larger C-model version for the first time this month, with this having a 300kg (660lb) maximum take-off weight and an 80kg payload. Endurance will be up to 30h, it says.

Meanwhile, the defence ministry has signed a 313 million zlotys contract to acquire five secondhand transport helicopters from Metalexport-S.

 
© Polish defence ministry
Polish forces already operate the Mi-17 in Afghanistan

Built between 1992 and 1995, the four Mi-17-1Vs and one Mi-172 will be overhauled at Russia's Ulan Ude plant and then receive new communication, navigation and self-protection equipment at Poland's WZL-1 military aviation works in Lodz for another 40 million zlotys. To be deployed from late 2010, the aircraft are expected to remain in service for 20 years.

Additional reporting by Arie Egozi in Tel Aviv and Grzegorz Sobczak in Warsaw