Industry teams to demonstrate VTOL systems, culminating in ship-borne flight tests

France’s DGA procurement agency plans to place study contracts with up to three industry teams by year end to examine options for a combined army and navy tactical unmanned air vehicle (TUAV) requirement. The project includes plans for a two-year demonstration of vertical take-off and landing UAVs, to conclude with flight operations aboard French navy vessels in 2009.

The two-year studies “aim to examine possible solutions to meet the needs of the army and navy”, says Etienne Leroy, head of UAV programmes for the DGA.

“All possible solutions will be examined on the basis of operational performance and cost of ownership. At the end of these studies a flight demonstration will be launched. This will aim to demonstrate the feasibility of an automatic landing of a UAV on the deck of a≠ frigate.”

The army component of the project replaces the service’s for­mer multi-mission, multi-sensor TUAV project, cancelled at the end of 2004 for “funding reasons”.

Speaking at the Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Unmanned Systems 2005 conference in Paris last week, Leroy said the army plans to replace its Sagem Sperwer UAVs in 2012-13, preferably with a system common with the navy.

Linking the latter’s TUAV requirement into the project replaces a navy programme that had been expected to go to tender earlier this year.

Sagem – now part of the Safran group – last year announced a naval teaming arrangement with Bell Helicopter for a derivative of the HV-911 Eagle Eye tiltrotor UAV and will continue the pact for the new joint requirement.

EADS will meanwhile expand the development programme for its Orka 1200 unmanned helicopter to encompass army requirements. “This solution is suited for the joint, integrated programme,” said TUAV sales manager Sebastian Chedeau.

A manned Orka 1200 demonstrator underwent its first flight last March as part of ongoing work to assess the performance of the modified Guimbal Cabri two-seat helicopter in support of future certification of an un­manned version for operations in civil airspace.





Source: Flight International