The UK Ministry of Defence's Joint Unmanned Air Vehicle Experimentation Programme (JUEP) office is poised to issue an invitation to tender (ITT) to companies interested in supporting its demonstration this year of maritime UAV operations.

The trials will involve a leased vessel for launch and recovery and information dissemination trials, and could culminate with a UAV being controlled from a Royal Navy Westland Sea King HAS7 airborne surveillance and control helicopter.

The JUEP earlier this year received responses from 38 companies interested in providing test air vehicles for the demonstration, but has reduced this list to a handful of candidates, including the Boeing/Thales-promoted Insitu ScanEagle and Northrop Grumman's RQ-8 Firescout. Release of the ITT will follow the MoD's delayed approval of around £10 million ($18 million) in funding for the JUEP's activities over the next 12 months. This has been halved from an anticipated £20 million as a result of a wider budget shortage within the UK MoD.

Other activities planned for the JUEP this year include closer participation with the MoD's Niteworks intelligence, surveillance target acquisition and reconnaissance testbed and applied research project efforts, says Drew Carmichael, tactical UAV integrated project team project manager - JUEP. It will also take part in Canada's Atlantic littoral intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance experiment from mid-year, involving a leased General Atomics-owned Altair medium-altitude UAV.

The JUEP office also has unveiled plans to conduct research into armed UAVs during its third year of operations. This will focus on defining the possible UK concept of operations for such a capability, and studying legal and financial implications.

Weaponisation had previously only been described as a possible study area beyond the initial project's three-year tenure.


Source: Flight International