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.