The Belgian army has completed a three week validation of its new B-Hunter unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) at Koksijde air base. Belgium ordered three systems - each comprising a ground station and three UAVs - in 1998.

The initial batch of B-Hunters is being produced in Israel bythe Eagle Group, a consortium of Belgium's Sonaca, Thales Communication Belgium and Israel Aircraft Industries, Malat division. The second and third batches will be assembled by Sonaca at Charleroi Gosselies.

Training of pilots and maintenance personnel is to start next month. The system is due to become operational in 2003. The Belgian defence ministry says the B-Hunter will be used by civilian authorities as well as the army.

B-Hunter is operated using the RUAG Ranger Automatic Pilot System (RAPS), a portable system. RAPS transmits an infrared beam that guides the UAV to a fully automatic landing in crosswinds up to 15kt (28km/h). The system enables the Belgian army to operate the Hunter without an external pilot.

Source: Flight International