British Army operations using Lockheed Martin's Desert Hawk III unmanned air vehicle will receive a significant boost later this month, with the type to be flown for the first time in UK airspace.

Acquired through the UK Ministry of Defence's urgent operational requirement (UOR) framework, the Desert Hawk system has been used in Afghanistan and Iraq for the last 18 months. However, the army has so far been unable to conduct pre-deployment flight training in the UK, as the system's ground control equipment interferes with mobile telephone frequencies.

Lockheed will perform the first UK flight of the short-range type from the army's Larkhill site on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, from 22 September using upgraded communication equipment.

Desert Hawk
 © Craig Hoyle/Flight International

The ability to conduct pre-deployment training will enhance the army's operational effectiveness in using the hand-launched Desert Hawk III, which has a line-of-sight operating range of up to 15km (8nm) and is used to provide base protection and reconnaissance services.

47 Regt will next month deploy the new equipment to Afghanistan, where it currently has one battery of eight Desert Hawk systems in use, in addition to seven fielded in Iraq.

Speaking during a UOR demonstration at the Salisbury Plain training area on 18 September, senior army officials said the lack of training equipment represents a significant shortfall in the MoD's rapid procurement model. "Having a full training fleet in the UK will save lives," says Brig Gen Bill Moore, director general logistics support and equipment for headquarters land forces.

Army spending on ground manoeuvre-related UORs has topped £1 billion ($1.8 billion) during the last two years.

Source: Flight International