UAV being developed as possible E-2C replacement

The Singapore ministry of defence has begun talks with EADS over the possibility of integrating Europe's stand-off surveillance target acquisition radar (SOSTAR) with the Asian nation's proposed Lalee unmanned air vehicle (UAV).

Singapore is developing the Lalee long-endurance UAV as a potential replacement for the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) four Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes from 2008. SOSTAR is part of NATO's air-to-ground surveillance (AGS) programme.

Industry sources say the defence ministry hopes to recruit a foreign partner with a similar UAV requirement to co-operate on the Lalee, but efforts to interest the US armed forces have so far failed.

NATO's AGS requirement, meanwhile, fits in with Singapore's schedule and is expected to use UAVs for at least part of the airborne component. Northrop Grumman is already working on a European version of its Global Hawk UAV with EADS.

The Lalee will have a maximum take-off weight of 15,000kg (33,000lb) with a 2,000kg radar - similar in size to the synthetic aperture radar being developed by the SOSTAR-X consortium. Partners in Lalee are Singapore Technologies Engineering and the country's Defence Science and Technology Agency.

SOSTAR-X comprises EADS, Dornier, Fiar, Fokker Space, Indra and Thales, and was awarded an €85 million ($82.7 million) contract in late 2000 to demonstrate the radar on a Fokker 100 testbed.

Under separate evaluation for the Lalee are radars from Israeli company Elta, Sweden's Ericsson and Thales of France.

Possible powerplants for the Singaporean UAV include the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW500 series turbofan, or used General Electric F404 engines recovered from McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk fighters being retired by the RSAF.

The Lalee is expected to cost about $500 million to develop, and unit cost will be about $40 million per aircraft, meaning total programme cost will be around $1.3 billion if 20 UAVs are deployed. However, operational costs are expected to be far lower than those of manned platforms or even conventional UAVs.

Source: Flight International