Saab Aerosystems plans to develop its proposed new-generation tactical unmanned air vehicle as an evolution of an existing system in a co-operative arrangement with another manufacturer, rather than embark on outright development of a new aircraft.

The development approach would mirror that used by Saab to develop its Skeldar V150 vertical take-off and landing system, which was unveiled in June. That UAV saw Saab acquire the rights from CybAero to develop a derivative of APID 55 VTOL system to meet anticipated Swedish military requirements.

Talks have been under way with a variety of fixed-wing tactical UAV manufacturers about development options with a shortlist established.

A downselect is likely before the end of 2006, says Mikael Franzen, programme director for UAV systems. However, that target remains dependent on decisions by the Swedish ministry of defence about its own requirements for the replacement of army operated Sagem Ugglan or Sperwer A systems acquired in 1997.

Sweden wants a new-generation tactical system fielded in time to support the European rapid reaction force’s Nordic Battle Group 11. This means an initial operational capability has to be in place by late 2009 or early 2010 to allow sufficient work-up time. That timeframe in turn means Saab and its selected partner will need to start development work during 2007 to have a system ready.

While Saab has previously publicly released concepts of a developmental canard-delta wing airframe with optional jet or propeller propulsion options, the company wants to “avoid building yet another airframe”, says Franzen. “We want a partner that has a good airframe”.

Saab’s own FILUR and SHARC subscale unmanned combat air vehicle demonstrator programmes would provide inputs into the new tactical system, but this excludes low observable (LO) technologies. “We don’t see LO as an element of tactical design for the near future,” says Franzen.

The ground control station for the new UAV will be based on that now under development for the V-150 programme.

V-150 flight testing will resume during September, with another series in November, Franzen says, using the existing CyberAero ground station.

Saab plans to continue evolving the V-150 design and plans to have a mature version available in the 2010-11 timeframe, offering significant potential for technology sharing with the new fixed-wing tactical system.