France has ordered the Sagem Patroller unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the French Army's Système de Drones Tactiques (SDT) tactical UAV system requirement, signing a contract for the UAVs on 5 April.
Reportedly worth EUR300 million (USD340 million), the contract covers the delivery of two operational Patroller systems, each including five UAVs and a ground control station. Also included are a further four Patroller UAVs and two ground stations for training and a 12-year maintenance agreement.
The contract was signed by Vincent Imbert, deputy director of the French defence procurement agency, the DGA, and Safran CEO Philippe Petiticolin. The ceremony at Sagem's Montluçon plant, where Patroller will be assembled, was witnessed by Defence Minister Jean-Yves le Drian.
First deliveries are expected in 2018, with the Patroller set to replace the Sagem Sperwer UAV, which was procured under the interim Système de Drone Tactique Intérimaire (SDTI) requirement. Sperwer has been in service since 2004 with the 61th Artillery Regiment (part of the Intelligence Brigade), based in Chaumont in eastern France.
Patroller won the SDT tender over competition from the Thales Watchkeeper. In October 2014, the head of the French Army, General Pierre de Villiers, publicly expressed his desire to acquire the Watchkeeper with a direct award of the contract to Thales. A competition was launched, however, and Sagem finally got the upper hand with a solution based on the Ecarys (ex-Stemme) S15 motorglider.
The Patroller currently has two payloads - an electro-optical infrared turret and a radar - and an electronic intelligence (ELINT) payload will later become available.
The Sperwer that the army will soon retire weighs 330 kg, takes off from a catapult, and lands on airbags and under a parachute. Patroller is three times heavier and relies on a runway for both take-off and landing. Sagem claims the Patroller has over 15 hours of endurance and a range of 150 km, whereas the French Army's requirement was only for 8 hours.
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