The Royal Netherlands Army is preparing a request for proposals for the replacement of its AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven unmanned air vehicles. The service expects to release the RFP in early 2015.
There are two catalysts for the replacement – the current Raven support contract is due to end in 2015, and the army has identified three distinct user groups that would benefit from different capabilities of a small UAV, Lt Col Pieter Mink, senior UAS adviser to the commander of the army, told the UAS Training and Simulation conference in London.
Mink says it is unlikely the army would operate UAVs larger than those in the small tactical category in the near future. The nation’s air force is in the process of acquiring the larger medium-altitude, long-endurance General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper.
Of the three groups identified, the special forces – including the marines – require only a limited endurance of about 1h. Reconnaissance users require a mid-range operating time, while users flying UAVs for national operations require the longest endurance of more than 3h. The Raven’s day and night cameras have to be swapped out, so an integrated dual payload is also a requirement.
Meanwhile, the nation’s military police – which falls under the army structure – is also looking for a rotary-wing UAV.
It is expected that a “family of systems” will be required to replace the 25 Raven systems in service.
Mink acknowledges that the army is slightly behind in its acquisition of replacement systems, but the service hopes to have new UAVs enter service by the end of 2015.
The acquisition of full flight simulators is also part of the requirement – one fixed and one mobile – in order to reduce the cost per hour of flights. Such an acquisition would also expand the possible scenarios operators can experience, as they can only train in live environments currently.
During the conference the Royal Danish Army touted the benefits of replacing its Raven UAVs with another AeroVironment type – the Puma AE. The service is planning on enhancing the UAV to an endurance of 3.5h, which would fit the Netherlands’ longest endurance requirements.
Mink adds that the Dutch army observed Danish Pumas in operation last year.
The Dutch service is also in the process of developing a micro, military-spec flapping-wing UAV, which is currently in the concept phase.
The type is based on the DelFly Micro UAV and is under development at the Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology. It will eventually be used in built-up areas for short reconnaissance missions.
Meanwhile, in October, Textron Systems Unmanned Systems told Flightglobal it was anticipating a formal request for proposals from the Dutch navy for a small ship-based surveillance UAV, for which it would offer its Aerosonde.
The Dutch programme has been in the works for three years, but has ramped up in development over the past few months, AAI says. An award is expected to be issued by the end of 2015.
While the navy is the lead in the programme, the selected UAV would also be acquired in a different configuration for the army.