The German defence services have announced a competitive bid for a medium altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. The announcement comes after prodding from the German air force, which has been saying that operations in Afghanistan have been highlighting the need for the type of real-time video the system should provide.
It's reconnaissance Tornado fighter aircraft only provide still photos, and that too not in real time.
The German defence armaments agency, the BWB, has now said that it would move ahead with the country's first major unmanned reconnaissance UAV programme. The programme called SAATEG (System fuer die abbildende Aufklaerung in der Tiefe des Einsatzgebietes or In-Theatre Reconnaissance) has identified a requirement for a MALE (Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance) Unmanned Aerial System capable of providing imaging intelligence for its armed forces in international missions.
The country's requirement is an immediate one, with Initial Operating Capability (IOC) scheduled for as early as 2010.
The country has already contracted for the purchase of the Eurohawk, a derivative of the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk, but this system is limited to signals intelligence.
The MALE project will initially cover five systems, with each system including a single air vehicle and several payloads and communication links. The ground infrastructure would consist mainly of two mobile ground segments; each of those would have to be able to carry out mission planning, mission control and launch and recovery. A beyond line-of-site datalink capability is also required.
Strong contenders are General Atomics and Israel Aerospace Industries with their Predator and Heron-TP versions respectively. Contract award is expected in December.