Socom Seeks UAV Service

November 11, 2008

There’s been interest among U.S. special operations personnel for some time to field unmanned aircraft. In fact, even though the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) still is looking for a tactical or more capable system, other units have already been working with smaller UAVs. And that’s not even talking about the support the U.S. Air Force and Central Intelligence Agency have been providing specialops units.

Nevertheless, U.S. Special Operations Command is now turning to industry to see if they can deliver UAV services, rather than just air vehicles and ground stations. The service would have to be available on a worldwide basis. The mission is for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services; armed UAVs may still be a step-too-far for outsourcing.

It’s an interesting development and one wonders if Thales is looking to get into the game. The company has already been working with the U.K. military to provide Hermes-450s on an urgent basis to forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thales also isin talks with the French government to do the same as part of the country’s force commitment to Afghanistan. (Click here to read the earlier post on those activities)


Pentagon Eyes Commerical Space-Based SAR Acquisition

November 10, 2008


The Pentagon has given industry a few more days to respond to a request for information on the provision of space-based synthetic aperture radar imagery.The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is managing the effort; so far it’s only a request for information. Nevertheless, folks like those behind the German SAR-Lupe or Italian Cosmo-SkyMed are interested.

With the Pentagon’s efforts to field a space-based SAR system in turmoil, going commercial seems a quicker solution. The resolution may not be what the intelligence community wants, but for the military’s day-to-day collection needs it may just be the thing. NGA already buys electro-optical imagery from commercial vendors.

What’s more, offloading the mundane task could make the job easier for the National Reconnaissance Office to develop a intel-dedicated system.

Here’s some of what NGA is asking for:

• Small area (<10 km wide) and/or large area (>10 km) imagery for reconnaissance, mapping, and charting;

• Structure location and identification;

• Area feature and surface type identification;

• Area elevation derivation;

• Trail and path detection;

• Moving target identification;

• Disaster assessment and mitigation for natural disasters such as hurricane, flooding, forest fire, earthquake and land movement or manmade disasters such as structure collapses;

• Wilderness, aviation and nautical search and recovery;

• Sea ice detection and tracking;

• Weather, wind and wave height detection for naval operations;

• Oil Spill detection;

• Bathymetry and obstacle identification in the littoral domain; and

• Maritime Surveillance

• Capability to provide products collected at high (~50 to 60°), mid, or low (~15 to 20°) incidence angles to support specific application needs.



French plan UAV deployment to Afghanistan

November 9, 2008

There’s been a huge demand for more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection systems in Afghanistan, particularly for full-motion video, and finally the French are looking to do their part.

As part of the French government’s new found emphasis on getting military equipment to troops in Afghanistan they will likely include the deployment of two SIDM medium-altitude, long-endurance systems (based on the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron). SIDM, the French acronym for interim MALE system, is fitted with an electro-optical/infrared payload or a radar sensor.

But the French government may also add a tactical UAV capability to what it operates in support of NATO operations. Thales is in talks about with the government about providing Hermes-450 UAVs. Thales is the prime contractor on the U.K. Watchkeeper program, which uses the Elbit Systems Hermes-450, and has already provided London a quick reaction capability of Hermes-450s in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The French are considering 5-10 UAVs of the type for Afghanistan operations. The UAVs could be in country within three months of contract award, a Thales executive suggests.

France has put more emphasis on getting military equipment into the region after an August mission went awry, leading to the death of 10 of its soldiers. As is so often the case, it took the loss of life for the bureaucracy to catch up with military needs.