A final series of recent flight trials of the Seeker 400 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system from Denel Dynamics (South African Pavilion, Stands 12-C21 and UM-46) has cleared it for imminent production this year. In the event, the system is being offered in both a ‘clean’ ISR-only and an armed reconnaissance version, with the latter designated Snyper, said Sello Ntsihlele, Denel Dynamics’ UAVs general manager.
“Our latest trials involved the full gamut of performance tests, including range and altitude, safety, endurance and functional payload,” he stated. “This brought us to the baseline as specified by the client, allowing us to head for production.”
It appears that sensitivities about armed UAVs have prompted the South African Air Force (SAAF) to retain the Seeker 400 designation for a pure surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. Seeker 400 is the latest and most advanced of Denel Dynamics’ UAV portfolio, with an operating altitude of 18,000ft, 16 hours’ endurance and a cruising speed of 150km/h. With a payload capacity of 100kg, it can carry dual payloads comprising synthetic aperture radar, optronics turret and digital video system for different tactical missions.
Seeker 400 builds on the heritage of the smaller Seeker 200, derived from the Seeker II, which had significant export success.
Both versions are on display at IDEX this year. “By aligning the design with international specifications for an armed surveillance UAV, we can offer Snyper with four Impi-S missiles,” Ntsihlele explained. “That still allows for a 40kg payload, typically the Goshawk II HD from Airbus DS Optronics, although we are still optimising Snyper’s structure.”
The Impi-S is derived from the proven Denel Dynamics short-range (5,000m) Ingwe and long-range (10,000m) Mokopa anti-armour missiles.
According to Ntsihlele, potential international clients have indicated a preference for the existing Denel Dynamics forward tactical ground station, despite a smaller ground station being available for ease of transport. The tactical ground station typically more than doubles the line-of- sight range of the aircraft – up to 750km in the case of Seeker 400.