Written by Leon Engelbrecht Defence Web
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has awarded Denel Dynamics a US$6.3 million (R45.2 million) contract for “engines for the Seeker II” unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
A company official says the order is a “regular and routine spares & maintenance award to ensure a continued high level of service availability”.
The UAE Air Force has operated the Seeker II for close to 20 years. The Seeker can range 250 kilometres from its base station and up to 400 if control is handed to a tactical ground station. THe system has a 10-hour flight endurance. Its service ceiling is 18 000 feet and it can carry multi-mission payloads of up to 40kg. A system consists of four to six air vehicles, a mission control unit, a tracking and communication unit, various payloads, field support equipment and an optional tactical ground station. The air vehicle sports a fuselage 4.2 metres long, with a wingspan of 6m and a mass of 180kg.
The Seeker II was developed from the Seeker I that retired from South African Air Force service in 2004. The South African Artillery developed a requirement for a UAV in 1977. Denel Dynamics antecedent Kentron was contracted to develop a system for the Artillery and tactical intelligence corps under Project Gharra. The Seeker was developed with initial Israeli Aircraft Industries assistance. Under a later decision, the Artillery withdrew from the project. Author Clive Wilsworth in his excellent “First in, First Out, The South African Artillery in Action 1975-1988 (30 Degrees South Publishers, Johannesburg, 2010) added that rivalry then between the Army and Air Force over the ownership and control of the system then came to a head, resulting in the transfer of the system to the SAAF. The Artillery only recently gained a UAV, the ATE Vulture, as part of the Project Klooster. 1 SA Tactical Intelligence Regiment still has a requirement for a UAV as part of its Project Cytoon battlefield surveillance system programme.
A pre-production Seeker was shot down over Maputo Bay in Mozambique on May 29, 1983, while on a reconnaissance mission. The system was also deployed to northern Namibia prior o Operation Askari in November 1984 and located Soviet-supplied 9K33 Osa (SA-8 “Gecko”) air defence missiles in the vicinity of Xangongo in southwest Angola. The UAV was later also deployed in support of Operation Moduler from September 1987 in southeast Angola. In one incident reported by Brig Gen (Ret) Dick Lord in his From Fledgling to Eagle (30 Degrees South Publishers, Johannesburg, 2008), it took some 16 SA-8 to shoot down one Seeker air vehicle. Two more were subsequently shot down during that operation.