Spanish Navy’s First UAV to Spy on Somali Pirates

By Esteban Villarejo of ABC Spain

The Skeldar V-200 by the Swedish company Saab is the first UAS (unmanned aircraft system) acquired by the Spanish Navy in service delivery contract (leasing), with the objective that it will soon be used as part of Operation Atalanta to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean.

This “unmanned helicopter” complements existing media tasks of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR, in military jargon) that until now has been developing the aircraft P-3 Orion or Vigma D.4 (the latter currently deployed, being a maritime patrol version of the CN-235, Airbus Military).

The first UAS of the Spanish Navy “will be operated and maintained by personnel of the same company awarded the contract,” military sources acknowledged. They will¬†mainly¬†embark on the Maritime Action Ship (BAM) amphibious ships and escorts.

The Skeldar V-200 is a¬†vertical takeoff,¬†unmanned aerial system specializing in intelligence gathering and imagery, which is then analyzed by the Navy team. The goal is to “spy” on the bases and camps of Somali pirates as well as being used in various offshore operations to a maximum height of 3500 meters (it is not used for attacks as it has no weapons capability).

Specifications: 5.2 meters long; 1.3 meters high; diameter of 10 meters including propellers, speeds reaching 140 km / h with a range of 100 kilometers, and a battery life of six hours. One of its advantages is that it can be operated by two people inside the ship without additional material or media for takeoff, says the company, Saab.

“The Navy provides for the present military planning cycle by acquiring unmanned aerial systems tactical employment operable from ships,” said the military sources.

Also, for the next cycle of planning, “and therefore is not an urgent need,” the Spanish Navy has acquired autonomous unmanned underwater vehicles (AUVs), complementing the strength of mine countermeasures¬†to ensure freedom of action for the force in shallow water (littoral scenarios, access to ports, narrow spaces..), where the use of conventional means is difficult (strong currents, low visibility, high risk…).

“These systems will be deployable and operable from various Navy platforms exploiting the mission module concept,” say sources. As we see, the “unmanned” capability gains strength in the naval field too. Looking no further than this month, for the first time, a UAV – the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System -¬†landed¬†on the deck of the U.S. aircraft carrier, George HW Bush, after a flight of 35 minutes.


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