Armed Forces - a6a14.1 - UAVs - Desert Hawk - Predator - Project Taranis




Desert Hawk is a small and portable UAV surveillance system which provides aerial video reconnaissance. It has a flight time of approximately one hour, and can fly almost anywhere within a 10 km radius of its ground control station.

Desert Hawk weighs 3.2 kg, has a length of 0.86 m and a wingspan of 1.32 m. The system can be used for a variety of tasks, such as force protection for convoys and patrols, route clearance, base security, reconnaissance or target tracking. It has both day and night time (thermal imaging) capability. The acquisition costs of the Desert Hawk UAVs procured for 32 Regiment Royal Artillery were around £1.8 million.

Desert Hawk has an extremely good record over the last two years supporting UK forces in Afghanistan.

Photo Copyright Lockheed Martin


Unmanned air vehicles are growing in importance and the RAF formed 39 Sqn at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada in Jan 07 to operate US-owned Predator/Reaper aircraft alongside USAF squadrons.

The UK has purchased a number of Reaper aircraft in support of UK ground forces in operational theatres. Reaper provides real-time video imagery to ground commanders, and has the capability to attack ground targets if required.

On operations Reaper is launched from an airfield in Afghanistan by RAF personnel and as soon as the aircraft is airborne it comes under the operation control of the 39 Squadron mission group in Nevada via their secure communications link.. At the conclusion of the mission control is handed back to the ground crew in Afghanistan who land the aircraft and prepare it for the next mission.

Between October 2007 and October 2010 Reaper had flown 1,344 operational sorties in Afghanistan during which time 84 Hellfire missiles and 36 laser guided bombs had been expended.

During May 2011 the MoD announced the formation of a second Reaper Squadron and an intention for Reaper to be controlled from within the UK. XIII Squadron will be formed in 2012 and based at RAF Waddington and the RAF Reaper strength increased to 10 aircraft. £135 million has been allocated for the purchase of five aircraft and four ground stations.

MQ-9 Predator B "Reaper"  Specifications

5 Aircraft available

Length 11m
Wingspan 20m
Weight 1,676kg (empty), 4,760kg (max)
Operational Altitude 25,000ft
Endurance 16-28hrs
Range 3,682miles
Payload 4,200lbs
Max Speed 400kph (250mph)
Cruise Speed 160kph (100mph)
Engines 670 kW Honeywell TP331-10 turboprop
Armament 6 x hardpoints under the wings, can carry a payload mix of 1,500 lb (680 kg) on each of its two inboard weapons stations, 500–600 lb (230–270 kg) on the two middle stations and 150–200 lb (68–91 kg) on the outboard stations.
Up to 14 x AGM-114 Hellfire air to ground missiles can be carried or four Hellfire missiles and two 500 lb (230 kg) GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs.
The ability to carry the JDAM in the future is also possible, as well is the AIM 9X, Air to Air missile.

Photo Courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved


The RAF has also taken the first step towards developing its own pilotless combat aircraft.

Project “Taranis” was announced last year and a demonstrator is due to fly at Woomera, Australia during late 2011 to evaluate how UCAS (Unmanned Combat Air Systems) will contribute to the RAF’s future mix of aircraft.

The demonstrator is believed to be the size of a BAe Hawk, weigh about 8 tons and will be configured for reconnaissance and attack missions. Some analysts believe that a system developed from Project Taranis could be operational by 2018-2020.

Taranis will be one of the world's largest UAV demonstrators and will integrate stealth technology around an intelligent, autonomous system.

Photo Copyright BAe Systems