Afghanistan: First Operational Flight of the SIDM
(Source: French Ministry of Defence; issued Feb. 18, 2009)
(Issued in French only; unofficial translation by
The French air force’s SIDM unmanned aerial vehicle on the ramp at Bagram air base, in Afghanistan, where it is now operating in support of NATO forces. (French AF photo)
On Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. local time the French SIDM unmanned aerial vehicle (Système Intérimaire de Drone Moyenne altitude longue endurance, SIDM) took off from Bagram air base, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, on its first operational flight in an combat zone. The flight lasted one hour and 40 minutes.

Fitted with new-generation sensors, this UAV can fly missions of up to 20 hours. Thanks to a permanent satellite datalink, the data gathered by the aircraft can be processed in real time both by troops on the ground and by staff echelons.

The system’s main capabilities are thus long endurance and immediate, real-time processing of operational data.

Each flight requires three separate teams: the ground engineers, tasked with the aircraft’s support and preparation; the pilots, tasked with the in-flight operation of the aircraft and its sensors, and with the monitoring of flight data; and intelligence analysts, who interpret the data transmitted by the aircraft.

At Bagram, construction of new buildings for the SIDM detachment began on Jan. 31. The aircraft, their ground station and the French air force personnel who operate them, arrived on Feb. 3.

The fact that the first operational flight took place less than 15 days after the aircraft arrived in theater is a testimony to its availability and to its technical maturity,” the commander of the SIDM detachment said at the flight’s conclusion.

Placed at the disposal of ISAF, the SIDM will fly intelligence-gathering missions in Afghanistan’s mountainous regions in support of ground troops.

Approximately 3,400 French military personnel are deployed in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kirghizstan and in the Indian Ocean as part of the FIAS mission and of Operation Enduring Freedom. Of these, 2,800 soldiers are deployed on the territory of Afghanistan.

Click here for a video of the SIDM’s first flight in Afghanistan, on the French MoD website.

Astrium Helps Enable Maiden Flight of the SIDM UAV by Supplying New Satellite Bandwidth In Afghanistan
(Source: EADS Astrium; issued Feb. 19, 2009)
On 17 February 2009, the French Air Force’s SIDM (the French acronym for medium altitude long endurance (MALE) drone) surveillance UAV performed its maiden flight in a foreign theatre of operations.

The SIDM, which provides information to safeguard the French armed forces within a radius of several hundred kilometres, requires two civil Ku-band satellite links: a low data rate link for it to be remotely controlled from a ground station, and a high data rate link for it to send in real time the data collected (video, photos) during the flight.

But the extremely high demand for satellite communications capabilities from numerous defence ministries and the international media has exhausted capacity in Afghanistan.

By analysing its portfolio of contracts with major international operators, Astrium Services was able to identify the only compatible satellite solution accessible in this region. Astrium then arranged with an operator for one of its satellites to be repositioned to meet the specific needs of the SIDM.

For Eric Béranger, CEO of Astrium Services, “The SIDM’s maiden flight in a foreign theatre of operations proved to be a huge success for Astrium Services and its subsidiary, London Satellite Exchange, given the difficulty in identifying and quickly implementing a compatible satellite solution that is available in this region where this bandwidth is saturated.”

As part of the deployment of the SIDM in Afghanistan, Astrium Services is supplying:
--The civil Ku-band satellite telecommunications capabilities
--The satellite link engineering
--A dedicated 24-hour hotline for its defence customers

Astrium, a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2007, Astrium had a turnover of EUR 3.5 billion and 12,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Astrium Space Transportation for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Astrium Satellites for spacecraft and ground segment and its wholly owned subsidiary Astrium Services for the development and delivery of satellite services.

EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2007, EADS generated revenues of EUR 39.1 billion and employed a workforce of more than 116, 000.


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