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Lockheed nabs £129M deal to supply mini drone fleet to UK armed forces

British Army getting Stalker VXE, Indago 4 drones
Stalker VXE UAS. Photo: UK MoD

The UK defense ministry has awarded Lockheed Martin UK a contract worth £129 million for work on a program that will deliver more than 250 “portable” and “packable” mini drones to the armed forces.

The 159 rotary-wing Indago 4 devices and 105 fixed-wing Stalker VXE30 drones will be replacing existing mini uncrewed aerial systems (MUAS) such as Desert Hawk 3. Both of the new drones are capable of locating and identifying targets far from the operator, and are due to be operational by the end of 2024.

Weighing a little over 20 kilograms and with a 4.88 meter wingspan, the portable Stalker is an operationally proven, vertical-launched, near-silent drone providing more than eight hours of imaging capability and able to cover around 60 miles.

The packable drone, Indago 4, weighing only 2.27 kilograms, can be folded and carried in a soldier’s backpack and deployed in just two minutes with a range of approximately eight miles. Its high-resolution camera systems provide incredible zoom capability to accurately identify people, objects, vehicles and weapons, day or night.

Both drone platforms will deliver imaging and surveillance and provide greater capability for the armed forces, locating targets at multiple ranges across a variety of environments.

Already used by the US military, the drones are designed to provide small military formations with immediate ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) capability – an increasingly vital component of modern battle spaces.

Lockheed Martin UK will be the systems integrator for the duration of the 10-year contract, working with small and medium enterprises as well as larger UAV manufacturers to iteratively develop the capability through life.

The company will be in charge of what the defense ministry termed as the Tiquila Enterprise, a collection of additional UK and international companies that will ensure access to the best technology and ideas, as well as rapidly integrate them with their Stalker and Indago platforms.

“Tiquila will bring the next generation of remotely piloted air systems into service in the Army. It will provide the means for the capability to remain at the leading edge of innovation allowing it to adapt to new threats,” Brigadier Pete Drew, the Army’s senior responsible owner for the Tiquila program, said.

“It marks a significant milestone for the Land ISTAR program, with Tiquila being the first sensor to be digitally integrated into the wider ISTAR ecosystem. It will speed up decision making and will make us more lethal, responsive and resilient as a force, underlining the Army’s commitment to delivering Future Soldier as set out in the integrated review.”