Iran hosting UAV competition for Russia's Army Games

by Jeremy Binnie

A Shahed-191 displayed at the IRGC's National Aerospace Park in Tehran. (Iranian Students News Agency)

An Iranian base that is allegedly used to train foreign terrorists to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is hosting part of the International Army Games 2022, raising questions about earlier reports that Russians are training to operate UAVs in Iran.

The Fars News Agency cited a senior officer in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force as saying on 15 August that the Falcon Hunting UAV competition would be held in Kashan, near Isfahan, as part of the games. It will involve teams from Armenia, Belarus, Iran, and Russia.

Visiting teams in the International Army Games often use equipment supplied by the host, which was initially the Russian military in 2015, but the event has since expanded, with 12 countries hosting competitions this year.

The IRGC has a base at Kashan Airport that has been used for its larger UAVs since at least 2016, when it was identified as the location of the test site for a copy of the US RQ-170 stealth UAV that crashed in Iran in December 2011.

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US Navy fast-tracks contract for MQ-9 SkyTower II airborne network extension

by Richard Scott

An artist's rendering showing an MQ-9A Block 5-25 in VMU-1 colours. The SkyTower ANE pod is carried beneath the MQ-9A's left wing stores station. (NAVAIR)

The US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has fast-tracked an order to provide US Marine Corps (USMC) MQ-9A Reaper unmanned air systems (UASs) with an improved airborne network extension (ANE) capability.

In a 3 October announcement, NAVAIR said it had awarded an USD8.4 million contract to multiple vendors for delivery of the SkyTower II (ST II) capability. ST II is a podded ANE solution designed to provide cross-domain communications and data relay capability for the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Unmanned Aircraft System Expeditionary (MUX) MQ-9A Block 5-25 Reaper Medium Altitude Long-Endurance air vehicle.

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Malian Su-25 crashes

by Jeremy Binnie

The Su-25 that was inaugurated on 9 August crashed less than two months later. (Présidence de la République du Mali)

Mali's recently delivered Su-25 ground attack aircraft crashed in the vicinity of Gao airport at around 0930 h local time on 4 October, the Armed Forces of Mali (FAMa) confirmed later that day.

FAMa identified the aircraft as TZ-20C, and said it was returning from a mission in support of local civilians when it crashed.

In a subsequent update, FAMa indicated that the Su-25 crashed into the airbase, adding that the pilot and a member of the ground crew were killed and eight military personnel were injured, two seriously. The crash also caused minor injuries to two civilians. It said an investigation had been launched, but there was no indication that the crash was caused by hostile action.

The AFP reported seeing a video of the aircraft crashing at high speed and cited a military official as saying the pilot who was killed was Russian.

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UK awards Protector training contract

by Gareth Jennings

An MQ-9B seen at a recent capability demonstration held out of RAF Waddington, home of the future Protector force. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

The United Kingdom (UK) has awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) a contract to undertake operator training for the MQ-9B Protector RG1 medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Announced by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 4 October, the Protector Training Conduct (PTC) award will cover instruction for the first 33 mission crews during a period of 19 months running until March 2024. The contract is valued at GBP25.9 million (USD29.4 million).

News of the award follows on the back of recent milestones for the Protector programme for the Royal Air Force (RAF) in September. These included the official handover of the first air vehicle to the MoD ahead of delivery to the UK, as well as the launch of public consultations for an airspace change to enable the UAV to be flown at its main operating base of RAF Waddington.

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