US Navy fast-tracks contract for MQ-9 SkyTower II airborne network extension
05 October 2022
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.
Project Oberon will comprise a cluster of three SAR-based satellites as part of the ISTARI programme. (Airbus)
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has issued a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) for Project Oberon, a programme that seeks high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites.
According to the PQQ released by the MoD on 24 November, the contract will involve a cluster of three satellites equipped with an active SAR payload and, at a lower priority, passive radio frequency (RF) functionality, which the supplier will be required to operate.
The main contract is expected to demand a “full end-to-end solution including inter alia; design, development, manufacture, assembly, integration, test, launch, commissioning, operations, and eventual disposal”, the PQQ stated.
Up to GBP70 million (USD84.7 million) has been earmarked for the 36-month contract.
A further contract option is expected as part of the project – this will require a supplier to deliver mission operations, training, and support (per year) for a further six years, as well as mission integration and implementation into the ground architecture of the multisatellite intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) ‘ISTARI' programme, the MoD detailed.
Autonomous UAV winch trialled at AWE for British Army
24 November 2022
by Olivia Savage
Sparrow (pictured), attached to a third-party UAV, which is lifting a 5 kg mock payload. (Janes/Olivia Savage)
A novel air-ground payload transfer device intended for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has been trialled at the British Army Warfighting Experiment (AWE) Sustain & Protect (S&P) programme at Portsmouth Naval Base.
During AWE on 22 November, BMT Global demonstrated Sparrow, a prototype robotic unit that enables the autonomous delivery and collection of payloads from a UAV.
Attached to a UAV, Sparrow can autonomously descend and ascend to deliver and collect payloads, it thereby allows the UAV to remain at a suitable height while avoiding the difficult urban terrain beneath, James Campbell, Sparrow project lead at BMT Global, told
Campbell said that the system is actually “best described as a suspended UAV”, this is because it has four fans like a quadcopter and is fully autonomous, able to manoeuvre itself, and identify objects on the ground. The key difference with Sparrow is that the fans are designed to counter wind and enable manoeuvrability, rather than for lift.
US military backs claim that Iranian UAV hit tanker
23 November 2022
by Jeremy Binnie
An image released by the US Navy's 5th Fleet shows some of the parts of Shahed-136 that were recovered from
(US 5th Fleet)
The US Navy's 5th Fleet released evidence to support its assertion that an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was used to attack a tanker in the north of the Arabian Sea on 15 November.
“The aerial drone that hit the commercial tanker was identified as a Shahed-136 UAV, fitting a historical pattern of Iran's increasing use of a lethal capability directly or through its proxies across the Middle East,” it said in a 22 November statement.
It released an image of the UAV remnants recovered after the attack and a diagram of the aircraft showing where several parts come from. Most of the components looked similar to ones used by smaller Shahed-131s recovered in Ukraine with the exception of a vertical stabiliser that is unique to the larger model.