SIMCLAIRS: A European Lightweight UAV Radar Tech
As UAVs begin to take on a wider array of battlefield roles, the ability to carry radars for situational awareness, detection, and targeting will become more and more important. Radars are also important to UAVs’ current functions as long-endurance ground surveillance platforms, however, offering an option that can supplement visual and thermal optics in order to penetrate foliage, and scan over a wider field of view. Many medium and large size tactical UAVs carry them now, from the General Atomics AN/APY-8 Lynx that can equips the MQ-1/9 Predator family, to the 65 pound Thales I-Master that equips Britain’s Hermes Mk450B Watchkeeper UAVs, to the tiny 2-pound NanoSAR radar that Boeing has tested on its small ScanEagle UAV.
France DGA recently announced a tri-national SIMCLAIRS program (Studies for Integrated Multifunction Compact Lightweight Airborne Radars & Systems) research program aimed at keeping European industry competitive in this area…
Contracts and Key Events
SIMCLAIRS is a tri-national project involving France, Britain, and Sweden. The industry consortium consists of Saab AB (Sweden), Finmeccanica’s SELEX Sensors & Airborne Systems Ltd (UK), Thales UK Ltd., and Thales Systemes Aeroportes (France).
The goal is to develop the technical base required for small, drone-portable ground surveillance radars; key foci include detection through vegetation, GMTI (ground moving target indicator) type functionality, passive electronic listening, and possibly communications relay as key research foci.
March 31/09: The European Defence Agency (EDA) signs a EUR 21 million (VAT tax excluded), 4-year contract for Studies for Integrated Multifunction Compact Lightweight Airborne Radars and Systems (SIMCLAIRS). The project is classified as an “ad-hoc category B” effort. The EDA release adds that:
“…in order to guarantee the best technology knowledge available in Europe, two open calls for Research Supplier Proposals will be organized by the consortium, without discrimination on grounds of nationality, type of research suppliers and so on… In the case of successful project, the SIMCLAIRS phase 2 is expected with the participation of the three contributing Member States.”
Sept 18/08: The governments of France, Sweden, and the UK sign an agreement to begin the SIMCLAIRS project. The next step is a contract via the European Defence Agency for a 4-year matching funds program worth up to EUR 21 million on the governments’ side of the ledger. These funds will be funneled to a consortium led by Thales, and including Finmeccanica’s Selex and Saab. DGA announcement [Francais] | Defense News.