The French defense procurement agency (DGA) has announced orders for two separate unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that will be delivered to the French Armed Forces by 2023.
The contract awards are part of the French initiative to speed up the procurement of UAS, among other systems and projects, as a way of boosting the French aerospace industry amid the current economic situation caused by COVID-19.
Aliaca, the larger of the two UAS being procured, is an electric drone designed to fly from French Navy ships. The official French Navy name for the program is Systèmes de Mini Drones aériens embarqués pour la Marine (SMDM).
The contract with Airbus calls for the delivery of a total of eleven Aliaca systems, comprising 22 aircraft. First deliveries are expected in 2021.
Originally developed by Survey Copter, which became an Airbus subsidiary in 2011, Aliaca is a light on-board UAS up to 3 hours of flight time and a range of over 50 km. Launched by catapult, the Aliaca maritime UAS concludes its flight by landing automatically using a net landing system. With a wingspan of 3,6m for a maximum take-off weight of 16 kg, the Aliaca can be deployed in less than 15 minutes by 2 operators only, according to Airbus.
This UAS gives the opportunity to vessels, traditionally not equipped with aerial assets, to enhance their tactical ISR capabilities, support decision making and reactivity in operations.
NX70 micro UAS
The other system procured by the French defense procurement agency is the NX70 UAS, which will start deliveries to the French Army this year.
The army already has over a hundred of the systems on order, with the latest batch of 49 units announced on February 11 scheduled for delivery by 2023.
NX70 weighs one kilo and has a flight time of up to 45 minutes with ranges of up to 5 kilometers. Beyond its day and night detection and recognition capabilities, the NX70 can be equipped with extended capabilities allowing it, for example, to perform observation missions lasting several hours thanks to its power supply device from the ground via a cable or to carry additional releasable devices such as a medical kit, smoke detector, etc.
Novadem, the UAS manufacturer, recently teamed up with MBDA to demonstrate the possibility of a drone guiding an MMP (Missile Moyenne Portée) missile system to engage its targets beyond the line of sight. For this demonstration, the weapon terminal was connected with the drone via radio and resulted in a direct hit on the target.