British forces deployed in Afghanistan are now equipped with the most up-to-date version of the Lockheed Martin Desert Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, the MoD announced on 23 August 2010.
The Desert Hawk UAV is a hand-launched aerial surveillance platform that’s operated by remote control and which is capable of carrying out day or night operations. The imagery it collects is transmitted to ground-based troops who can then analyse it and the purchase of these brand-new Desert Hawk IIIs features within a wider £3m capability boost for British armed forces personnel stationed in Afghan territory.
Desert Hawk III UAV
Compared to the original Desert Hawk – which first flew in 2003 - the Desert Hawk III UAV features upgraded camera technologies, improving both stability and image quality. It‘s also been fitted with a modified wing design to optimise its performance in the heavy Afghan air.
Although diminutive – 137cm wide and less than a metre in length – the Desert Hawk is capable of carrying out 90 minute missions over a nine mile range. Its minimal weight of around 3.7 kilograms makes it fully portable and its stature makes it almost impossible to see in the overhead.
British Army Desert Hawk UAV operations in Afghanistan are carried out by 47 Regiment Royal Artillery and in a MoD press release, division representative Staff Sergeant Dan Gardner explained the UAV’s role and the advantages it presented.
“Desert Hawk provides an eye in the sky that has become indispensable to troops on the ground in Afghanistan”, he said. “The fact that it is hand-launched and lightweight means we get a very quick and thorough appraisal of the tactical situations faced on operations.
“It is used in a variety of roles, including reconnaissance and surveillance of troops and patrols, and it provides valuable situational awareness to commanders of troops in contact with the enemy.”
British Army UAVs
As far as its role within the British Army is concerned, Desert Hawk sits within the ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) family that also includes much larger surveillance platforms like the Boeing E-3D Sentry and the Nimrod R1 aircraft. Other ISTAR types deployed in Afghanistan include other British Army UAVs like the Hermes 450 and Reaper designs, as well as the RAPTOR pod carried by the Tornado GR4.
“Continuing to support this capability demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that troops on the front line get the cutting-edge equipment to help them in the fight against the insurgents”, Peter Luff – UK Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology – added in the MoD’s Desert Hawk press release.
“The improved Desert Hawk is a remarkable piece of kit. It provides a detailed picture of what is happening on the ground for our troops, giving them an operational advantage and keeping them safer.”
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