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French Navy boosts ISTAR with Aliaca UAV

Survey Copter, which is owned by Airbus Defence and Space, is developing an improved version of the Aliaca with increased range and autonomy. (Victor Barreira)

The French Navy is boosting its ability to conduct airborne day-and-night intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions from surface ships thanks to the Survey Copter Aliaca fixed-wing tactical mini unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The electrically powered UAV was deployed from the PHM Commandant Ducuing (F795) patrol ship during NATO's maritime unmanned systems exercise ‘Dynamic Messenger 22' that took place in Portugal in late September.

In all, 22 UAVs, ground control stations, training, and a 10-year support package were purchased in the last quarter of 2020 by the French defence procurement agency (Direction générale de l'armement: DGA) for EUR19.7 million (USD19.5 million) to meet the requirements of the Système de Mini Drones aériens embarqués de la Marine (SMDM) programme.

Each SMDM system is made of two UAVs. The initial three systems were received in June, with deliveries to be complete at the beginning of 2023.

The Aliaca has a length of 2.2 m, a wingspan of 3.6 m, a maximum take-off weight of 16 kg, a maximum range of 100 km, and an endurance of 6 hours. It is launched by catapult and recovered via a net. The UAV is equipped with a GX5 electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) payload and an automatic identification system (AIS) receiver.

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