All six CU-162 Sperwer unmanned air vehicles making an operational debut with a Canadian peacekeeping force in Afghanistan have crashed or require major repairs.

The latest mishap on 21 January destroyed the Canadian-led brigade's last operational UAV. It occurred as the Sagem-built drone was returning after a 2.5h mission to a recovery point but lost control and "hit a mountain," says Capt Jacques Gobin, deputy project manager for tactical UAVs.

Repairs to three Sperwers were expected to be completed by 26 January, and the UAVs shipped by Sagem from France to Afghanistan.

The latest incident caps a troublesome operational introduction for the Sperwer fleet. Canadian Forces hastily acquired four UAVs a few weeks before deployment last August. Two more aircraft were ordered to augment the fleet, after the military discovered an airframe cracking problem that sidelined two Sperwers for several months.

The remaining four aircraft fared even worse. Two were blown off planned recovery points and sustained heavy damage; the remaining pair have been destroyed in crashes. However, the Canadian army plans to continue supporting the programme and is discussing doubling the size of the Sperwer fleet.

Source: Flight International