OTTAWA --- As part of its continuing exploration into the potential utility of uninhabited aerial vehicles (UAVs), the Canadian Forces (CF) recently purchased the Silver Fox mini UAV system produced by Advanced Ceramics Research of Tuscon, Arizona. Thales Systems Canada is the prime contractor in the acquisition of this system, which is for a two-year period of combined concept development and experimentation. This contract was awarded to Thales on April 5th.
Acquired after a competitive evaluation, the decision to purchase this modular, ‘plug-and-play’ mini UAV is notable in that the Canadian Forces’ UAV experimentation to date has been through the leasing of different platforms produced by various manufacturers. The decision to purchase this system – at a cost of $649,000 for the system, including training and service support -- was made for the flexibility that this approach would provide. This system is expected to be delivered to the CF by mid-July 2004.
The Canadian Forces, through the Canadian Forces Experimentation Centre (CFEC) at Shirley’s Bay, Ontario, has been investigating the use of UAVs to address a recognized capability deficiency in the areas of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and Command and Control. In support of this goal CFEC, through a series of synthetic and live experiments conducted since 2001 and by using leased UAV systems, has been obtaining data and knowledge to determine how UAVs can be used to resolve this deficiency.
Another difference is that the Silver Fox mini UAV system – which is unrelated to the current operational use of the Sperwer UAV system on Operation Athena in Kabul, Afghanistan -- will be a collaborative, CF -wide experimentation that will permit Canada’s navy, air force and army, as well as Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), to enhance their understanding about the potential use of mini UAVs in the modern battlespace.
The flexibility obtained as a result of purchasing the already-available Silver Fox mini UAV system means that the CF will be able to trial a variety of payloads and communications suites, to experiment with this platform in various operating environments e.g. off a Canadian naval vessel, and to contribute toward doctrine development on the operational employment of UAVs.
While the Silver Fox mini UAV system – which will include the UAV platforms themselves plus associated payloads, ground control stations, remote video terminal, spares support for two years, ground support equipment, documentation, training and shipping containers – will be based out of the DRDC facility at Suffield, Alberta, it will be operated across Canada by various CF organizations on a shared basis. As an example, the Silver Fox mini UAV system will be employed during one of the phases of the upcoming comprehensive Atlantic Littoral ISR Experiment, slated to take place in the Baffin Island and across Atlantic Canada beginning later this August.