The Army has acquired an unmanned target acquisition and surveillance drone, the Sperwer UAV. It will be deployed with Operation ATHENA in Afghanistan.
“This is the first time the Army has had a beyond line-of-sight surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition capability,” said Captain Nathaniel Ng, who serves with Director Land Requirements. “We’ll actually be able to see what’s over that next hill or on the other side of the wall. It gives the commander a real-time image of what’s going on out there.”
Eventually, the tactical UAV system will be one component of ISTAR, a seamless surveillance and communications system linking soldiers and commanders up and down the chain of command. The Army plans to acquire smaller drones for use at the company level and below.
The new system is known as the Sperwer UAV (unmanned air vehicle) System and is designed by SAGEM SA of France. Oerlikon Contraves of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. will be the prime contractor in Canada.
“UAVs are ideal for dull, dangerous and dirty missions,” Capt Ng noted. “Why have a pilot flying over an area for ten hours when a UAV can do the job? And why put a pilot at risk when a UAV can gather the information? This system gives us a great deal of flexibility—we can move it around quickly over the operating area.”
The system is launched by catapult and recovered by parachute. For Op ATHENA, the Army has purchased four drones, the associated ground data and launching equipment including vehicles, along with simulators for training. The all-weather drones have de-icing capability.
A team of about 28 CF personnel will operate the system in Afghanistan. Most are from E Battery, 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in Petawawa. For this initial mission, Air Force personnel will oversee areas such as airworthiness and some maintenance. It is expected that eventually, all-Army teams will operate the system.
The Sperwer is now in service with the armed forces of France, Holland, Sweden, Greece, Denmark and will soon see service with the German forces.
In this initial procurement, the Army will acquire:
--Two ground control stations
--Two ground data terminals
--One launching system (catapult) with power generator
--One platoon maintenance facility
--Four air vehicles with electro- optical payloads
--Four remote video terminals
--Three generator trailers
--One MCT trailer
--Three stand-alone simulators
--Land Force ISTAR omnibus project