Egypt is shortly expected to move ahead with long delayed modernisation efforts for its BAE Systems R4E SkyEye and Northrop Grumman M324 Scarab tactical unmanned air vehicle fleets.

The upgrades have been in discussion for more than two years but have been repeatedly deferred with Egyptian defence spending being constrained by rival priorities, including new VIP transport aircraft.

Rick Ludwig, director of unmanned systems business development for Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems says that “we are working on a contract with the Egyptians to do upgrades on that aircraft, we are negotiating that as we speak.”

Potential upgrade elements will include new engines and a replacement navigation system. The Scarab was one of the first tactical UAVs to incorporate a global positioning system-based guidance system.

Northrop currently holds an in-service support contact for the UAV. “They still fly that aircraft about once a month” Ludwig says.

The SkyEye modernization is currently focused on obsolescence issues but is expected to see a fleet expansion in the 2008 period.

According to Lisa Matthews, director of unmanned aircraft systems in BAE Systems electronics and integrated systems the company is currently working on building up Egypt’s spares and support base for the UAVs to ensure availability of the existing two operational squadrons. That effort will continue into 2007.

“They want to get their current fleet operational with support and spares, and then buy further” Matthews says.

The Egyptian SkyEye’s have “been in operation for quite a while now and we are looking at further squadrons to be provided”.

A proposed additional system sale publicly flagged by BAE Systems in mid 2005 was set aside in favour of the current sustainability effort she says. The company previously carried out an upgrade for the Egyptian aircraft in 1999.