UK seeks nano UAS capability for Afghanistan

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The UK Ministry of Defence wants to field a nano unmanned air system to support its operations in Afghanistan. Deliveries could start late this year.

First details of the possible urgent operational requirement deal were revealed in an MoD contract notification on 24 February, with its value estimated at between £10 million ($16.4 million) and £20 million.

A long list of system requirements was also released. Candidate air vehicles must be rotary-wing in design and have an all-up weight of no more than 200g (7oz). In all, the unmanned system equipment should weigh less than 1.7kg (3.7lb).

To use battery power, the air vehicle should be "able to carry out at least one single flight of at least 20min endurance". However, a performance of at least twice this duration is listed as "desirable". The UAS should be able to fly at least 0.5nm (1km) away from its operators and at an altitude of 985ft (300m) above the ground, and also have a "low visible/acoustic signature".

Using way-point navigation, the air vehicle should be operated by a non-specialist operator who will receive a maximum of two days of system-specific training, the outline says. Air vehicles should be suitable for deployment within 2-5min.

The MoD's payload requirement is for the vehicle to carry a sensor capable of allowing "users to see motion imagery sufficient to distinguish friendly force personnel from others in daylight conditions". An ability to detect personnel at night is also sought.

Expressions of interest for the requirement are sought by 25 March, with potential contractors to then be asked to complete a pre-qualification questionnaire. A formal invitation to tender is planned for release in late June, with responses due around mid-August. A contract award date has provisionally been set for 15 September.

The selected off-the-shelf design should be "mature and robust", and available for delivery from the first quarter of 2012, or preferably from late this year, the MoD says. The equipment supplier will also be asked to provide support and maintenance services under the award.

The UK already operates multiple unmanned air vehicle types in Afghanistan, including Elbit Systems Hermes 450s, General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers, Honeywell T-Hawks and Lockheed Martin Desert Hawks, with UOR funding used in several instances.