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More than ever before, unmanned aircraft will enable European navies to achieve a continuous in-theatre presence in varying mission scenarios. Maritime forces can choose from a steadily increasing portfolio of miniature or miniaturised unmanned aircraft, including rotary-wing types like the SKELDAR V-200 helicopter drone, a development by the Swiss-Swedish enterprise UMS Skeldar, a joint venture of UMS Aero Group AG and Saab AB.

ECA Group awarded UMS Skeldar a procurement contract to supply its SKELDAR V-200 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), forming part of the naval mine countermeasures capability replacement programme led by Belgium Naval & Robotics, a consortium including Naval Group and ECA Group. The overall programme calls for the delivery of twelve minehunters fitted with modern drone systems (Toolbox) to the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNlN) and the Belgian Naval Component (MONCh Online reported). The configuration of the Toolbox, used on board each vessel or deployed from the shore, will vary depending on the typology of the missions, consisting of the UAV SKELDAR V-200 as an integrated part in addition to INSPECTOR125 unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), AUV A18M underwater drones and T18 towed sonars for mine detection, as well as the Mine Identification and Disposal System (MIDS) for mine identification and neutralization with SEASCAN and K-STER vehicles.

Already selected by the Royal Canadian Navy the UAV SKELDAR V-200 provides the end user with an embedded “eye in the sky” intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability to enhance its capacity to perform primary and secondary missions. The delivery to another international customer, the German Navy, will include one system consisting of two SKELDAR V-200B variant unmanned helicopters equipped with engines from Hirth Engines GmbH, as well as spare parts, ship integration, and shipborne operator training, to fit as an “interim solution” for the German Navy’s VorMUAS (Vordringliches Marine-Unmanned Aerial System) UAV project.

For the contract with ECA Group, serial deliveries of the UAV SKELDAR V-200 are expected to be initiated in 2023. ECA Group’s Programme Director Jean-Louis Sambarino noted, “We are very pleased to announce our choice of UMS Skeldar as a partner to join this first world’s navies programme based on autonomous technologies. Together with Naval Group, we believe that strong partnerships and close cooperation are key to the success of this project.”

Speaking of this latest NATO Navy contract win, Axel Cavalli-Björkman, CEO of UMS Skeldar, explained: “This is a significant contract win for us and confirms our market-leading capabilities within the maritime sector. The SKELDAR V-200 was conceived as a maritime platform, and we have continued a programme of enhancements including technical, sensor and flight endurance along with improvements of our superior heavy fuel engine.”

“The SKELDAR V-200 is undoubtedly an essential asset in the stand-off concept. This UAV, with its integrated sensors and endurance, will improve the situational awareness and enhance the detection process in the mine threat area. Ultimately, this will result in a more efficient and safer mission for our valuable crewmembers,” concluded Cdr SG Claude Bultot, Programme Director for the Belgian and Royal Netherlands Navies.

Stefan Nitschke

 

Each of the twelve modern minehunters built for Belgian Naval Component and the RNlN will be fitted with the complete drone system consisting of the SKELDAR V-200 UAV in addition to underwater and surface drones entirely dedicated to mine warfare missions. Powered by a heavy-fuel engine (and therefore better suited to the corrosive marine environment), the SKELDAR V-200 UAV can carry high-definition optics and hyperspectral sensors that can be carried to understand, identify and assist in a variety of missions. (Photos: UMS Skeldar)

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