AN ORDER for a third Zephyr-S unmanned air vehicle has been placed by the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD). The new deal, as part of a £13-million contract with Airbus Defence and Space (ADS), was announced by the MOD on August 17.
Zephyr-S is the latest version of a highly sophisticated series of ultra-lightweight UAVs, capable of flying up to 70,000ft (21,340m) for up to 45 days at a time. Referred to as a High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS), it performs more like a satellite than a conventional UAV.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “Zephyr is a cutting edge, record-breaking piece of kit that will be capable of gathering constant, reliable information over vast geographical areas at a much greater level of detail than ever before. They are part of our plan for stronger and better defence, backed by a budget that will rise each year of this decade. That means more ships, more aircraft, more troops available at readiness, better equipment for special forces, more being spent on cyber – to deal with the increased threats to our country.”
The third Zephyr-S will join the first two which, as previously reported on AFD, were ordered by the MOD in February this year. Built in Farnborough, Hampshire, by ADS, all three will form part of an Operational Concept Demonstrator (OCD) to assess Zephyr’s capabilities and explore its potential for use by the UK Armed Forces and other Government Departments. The additional Zephyr-S will allow two airframes to be tested simultaneously and demonstrate operational handover to show that the capability could be sustained indefinitely.
The OCD trials, which will be held in 2017, will inform Defence’s decisions around how best to provide next-generation battlefield intelligence to the UK Armed Forces.