Saab used the ?xml:namespace>Dubai air show to announce the first flight of its Filur unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator in Sweden last month. The company had over recent weeks declined to comment on the status of its Filur test campaign, but says it has now received permission from the national Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) to publish details of the vehicle’s 10min debut flight, which took place from Sweden’s Vidsel test range on 10 October.
The flight actually took place before another first for the company - the maiden flight of the first of 28 Gripen C/Ds for the South African Air Force which happened on 11 November. The 1hr 10min sortie took palce from Saab's Linkoping base in Sweden.
Funded largely by the FMV, the Filur demonstration effort will resume within the next few months with the launch of a series of flight tests scheduled to conclude by the end of 2006. This campaign will assess the ability of the low radar cross-section design to conduct a mission without being detected by air-defence radars. Flight tests will resume following a thorough evaluation of the initial sortie to be conducted by Saab and the FMV, says Saab deputy chief executive officer Ingmar Anderssen.
Building on Saab’s initial unmanned air vehicle experience drawn from the Sharc demonstrator effort, Filur is intended to assess stealth technologies for possible use in future variants of the Gripen fighter and possibly a future operational UCAV, says Saab.
The company meanwhile remains optimistic that the Swedish government will give its final approval to national involvement in the French-led Neuron UCAV technology demonstrator programme before year-end or early 2006. The FMV in mid-November handed the government an analysis of alternatives to investing in the project, but “most of the alternatives would be more costly”, says Anderssen.