Mini Drones to Boost UK Military Surveillance Capabilities

Lockheed Martin UK will deliver more than 250 mini drones with high-resolution imaging capabilities to locate and identify potential targets By DA Reporter / 19 Dec 2022
Mini Drones to Boost UK Military Surveillance Capabilities

More than 250 portable and packable mini drones will be delivered to the British Armed Forces following the award of a £129 million contract to Lockheed Martin UK.

Replacing existing Mini Unmanned Aerial Systems (MUAS) such as the Desert Hawk 3, the 159 rotary-wing Indago 4 devices and 105 fixed-wing Stalker VXE30 drones, which are both capable of locating and identifying targets far from the operator, are due to be operational by the end of 2024.

Weighing just over 20 kg and with a 4.88 meter wingspan, the portable Stalker is an operationally proven, vertical-launched, near-silent drone providing more than eight hours of imaging capability and able to cover around 60 miles.

The Indago 4 packable drone weighs just 2.27 kg and can be folded and carried in a soldier’s backpack and deployed in just two minutes with a range of approximately eight miles. Its high-resolution camera systems provide incredible zoom capability to accurately identify people, objects, vehicles and weapons, day or night.

Both drone platforms will deliver cutting-edge imaging and surveillance and provide greater capability for the Armed Forces, locating targets at multiple ranges across a variety of environments.

“As the global threat changes, it’s crucial we remain at the forefront of innovation, delivering cutting edge capabilities to our deployed forces,” said Minister for Defence Procurement, Alex Chalk KC. “This is another fantastic example of British industry supporting UK defense technology.”

With proven effectiveness in this technology, Lockheed Martin UK will be the Systems Integrator for the duration of the 10-year contract, working with SMEs as well as larger UAV manufacturers to iteratively develop the capability through life. This will ensure operational advantage is maintained by UK Armed Forces by upgrading the drones, keeping pace with technological changes and emerging threats when required.

Already used by the US military, the drones are designed to provide small military formations with immediate Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability.

“These remotely piloted systems will enhance the ability of our soldiers to gather crucial intelligence and capture essential imagery in a tactical environment,” said Andy Start, DE&S CEO. “As well as equipping the UK Armed Forces for operations now and into the future, this key program supports highly skilled jobs for the next decade.”

More than a dozen full-time UK jobs will be sustained at Lockheed Martin over the contract’s duration, mostly based at Havant and Gloucester, including engineering, commercial, project management and support roles. Further supply chain roles across the UK are expected to be supported throughout the contract.

Lockheed Martin UK will be the conduit to a collection of additional UK and international companies known as the TIQUILA Enterprise. This ensures that TIQUILA is able to access the best technology and ideas, as well as rapidly integrate them with their Stalker and Indago platforms.

“TIQUILA will bring the next generation of remotely piloted air systems into service in the Army. It will provide the means for the capability to remain at the leading edge of innovation allowing it to adapt to new threats,” said Brigadier Pete Drew, the Army’s Senior Responsible Owner for the TIQUILA program. “It marks a significant milestone for the Land ISTAR program, with TIQUILA being the first sensor to be digitally integrated into the wider ISTAR ecosystem. It will speed up decision making and will make us more lethal, responsive and resilient as a force, underlining the Army’s commitment to delivering Future Soldier as set out in the integrated review.”

“Employing a Systems Integrator approach will ensure that UK Defence is able to make the most of innovative development and Project TIQUILA’s rapid capability integration cycle, to deliver the latest and best capability into the hands of our users on the front line,” said Air Commodore Steve Bentley, UKStratCom’s Senior Responsible Owner for TIQUILA. “Project TIQUILA will leverage competitive advantage from across the full spectrum of SMEs and Prime contractors, to ensure the UK is equipped with the best of breed and is able to make the most of the rapid pace of capability evolution.”

Delivering on the Integrated Review, the mini drone capability will underline the British Army’s commitment to Future Solider, building an Armed Forces capable of tackling emerging threats and future challenges on the battlefield.

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