Britain Deploying Desert Hawk UAVs to Afghanistan
Several mini-UAVs are popular in Afghanistan and Iraq, from the RQ-11 Raven and MiTex BUSTER to the Elbit Skylark and EMT Aladin. Now Britain’s Ministry of Defence notes that soldiers from 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in support of the Helmand Task Force as part of Operation Herrick alongside soldiers from 16 Air Assault Brigade. When they do, they’ll bring something new with them: Lockheed’s Desert Hawk mini-UAVs, which have also been used by the US Air Force. British Soldiers from 32nd Regiment have been in Iraq since March 2003 using BAE’s larger Phoenix tactical UAV, but they have been working with the new Desert Hawk system in California in preparation for the Afghan deployment. 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery is currently the British Army’s only Unmanned aerial Vehicle (UAV) regiment.
Desert Hawk is a man-portable system that traces back to a 1996 DARPA project and 2001 solicitation; this Lockheed Skunk Works project entered service in 2002. It has a flight time of approximately one hour and a 10 km/ 6 mile operating radius. The UAV has both day and night time (thermal imaging) capability, and can be used for a variety of tasks such as force protection for convoys and patrols, route clearance, base security, reconnaissance or target tracking. Defense Update reports that British Desert Hawks were tested in Iraq, but deemed unsuitable for operations as the downlink was jammed by interference from the Iraqi mobile phone network system.
August 1/08: Rotorhub Magazine runs “REPORT FROM IRAQ: Royal Artillery’s mini and tactical UAVs tasked to counter indirect fire at Basra, Iraq.” The UAVs are Desert Hawk mini-UAVs and mid-size Hermes 450 aircraft, which indicates that some of the Desert Hawk’s technical issues with Iraqi frequencies have been resolved.