Thursday, 14 April 2016

Qatar Pushes Ahead with its Airborne Surveillance Capability

Big Picture

The Q01 airborne platform is designed for long-endurance surveillance missions at altitudes up to 30,000ft (9,145m).
(Photo: Matthias Fischer/M8 Medien GmbH)

The State of Qatar finalised a deal with German aircraft manufacturer Reiner Stemme Utility Air Systems (RS-UAS) for the manufacturing and delivery of Q01 aircraft. Qatar’s government will spend up to US$100.25M (€88.46M) to improve its airborne surveillance capability. It selected the Q01 MALE (Medium-Altitude Long Endurance) platform that can be manned by up to two crew, operated in full automatic/autonomous flight mode, or piloted from a ground station. A prototype air vehicle presented at RS-UAS’ Flight Operation Centre in Schönhagen, Germany, on 16 March 2016, was described by the manufacturer as an OPV (Optionally Piloted Vehicle) designed “for surveillance missions on land, coastline, and sea”, which due to its low weight construction and low fuel-burn internal combustion (IC) engine has an “outstanding endurance” of 50 hours in unmanned mode. The virgin flight has been conducted in November 2015, according to the company. The certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is planned to be achieved in 2017.
The Q01 project was initiated by a unique German-Qatar partnership, according to RS-UAS. It will be able to merge technology and mission experience, and it is matching the requirements of the international market. The first Q01 aircraft will be ordered by the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) and are tailor-made for the airborne surveillance needs of the State of Qatar. These aircraft, equipped with a THALES radar and L-3 WESCAM’s MX 20 electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor system, will be mainly operated in maritime border control missions. Other sensors can include a photogrammetric camera and a laser scanner. The aircraft will also play an important role in the efforts to secure Qatari oil resources and to interrupt drug and weapon smuggling routes in the Persian Gulf. Deliveries are scheduled to take place during the second half of 2017.
Compared to rotary-wing aircraft, the Q01 platform produces less costs per flight hour, has a higher endurance, generates less noise and pollution, requires less maintenance, has fewer vibrations for sensors, and is faster over the area of operation. In his speech during the presentation ceremony on 16 March, QEAF General (Pilot) Khalid al-Kuwari, Director of the QEAF UAV Committee, praised the cooperation with RS-UAS and outlined the low operational costs (only US$250-300 per hour), easy maintenance, and flexibility of the aircraft for a variety of missions. He also mentioned a “generous fundamental idea” behind the Q01 project, which may be of interest for other Armed Forces eying high-quality, cost-efficient airborne surveillance capacities. “We decided to make this aircraft available and accessible to all nations from the East to the West – not only to Qatar, Germany or the US”, said RS-UAS’ CEO Dr. Reiner Stemme. He added; “We will not charge any development costs.”
By Alexander Kolberg, Schönhagen 

Arresting Ambiguation

QEAF officials told NAVAL FORCES in Doha that the State of Qatar has made a breakthrough purchase with RS-UAS’ Q01 airborne platform, highlighting its growing needs to further extend a “Persian Gulf sea surveillance” capability. The payload capacity – up to 1,000kg – “makes the platform a [force] multiplier for the variety of ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] duties”, said a Qatari Defence Ministry source. NAVAL FORCES learned that the airborne platform, once fully introduced and equipped with sensor payloads, could be operated “in concert” with other surveillance assets in the region, offering Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members a unique capability to provide more accurate data and enable officials to make informed tactical decisions. Systems of this kind are in great demand.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between representatives of the State of Qatar and RS-UAS at DIMDEX 2016 in Doha, Qatar, for the manufacturing and delivery of Q01 aircraft.
(Photo: DIMDEX 2016)

With a range of over 1,350nm (2,500km) in manned mode and 4,500nm (8,335km) in unmanned mode, the Q01 platform will be able to beef up the State of Qatar’s intelligence capability over land and sea.
(Photo: RS-UAS)

The Q01 air vehicle is unique in what the manufacturer calls it “dual-mode”, meaning that the aircraft is capable of flying missions with or without a pilot. This unique dual mode capability makes it an outstanding platform from most other platforms used for surveillance tasks. Dual-mode gives the chance to monitor remote areas for up to 50 hours, a capability that is in strong demand by GCC member states. NAVAL FORCES was told in Doha that the demand for exactly this type of airborne platforms could further rise. On a global scale, the demand for long-endurance surveillance aircraft has witnessed a gradual turn. Instead of ‘manned-only’ aircraft, growing demand is witnessed for low-cost unmanned platforms – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), with the ‘dual-mode’ Q01 representing a “new category” of airborne platform agile enough to stay aloft for days and carry large sensor payloads. A high-tech platform “may make sense”, a QEAF official said.
By Stefan Nitschke, Doha

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