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UAE Testing Locally-Developed Armed UAV

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UAE United 40 Block 5 at Test Airfield (excerpt)

(Source: Bellingcat; posted March 26, 2015)

By Chris Biggers

When the US denied the sale of armed Predator drones to fulfill UAE Air Force requirements in 2002, the Gulf country set out to fill the gap by developing its own medium altitude long endurance UAV. Local target drone manufacturer ADCOM Systems took up the challenge and has helped further develop the UAE’s defense industrial base with its United 40 model.

Satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe shows the UAE testing the United 40 block 5 at the company’s remote desert airstrip 30 miles outside of the heart of Abu Dhabi. Imagery from November 2014 captured the UAV along with the associated ground control station integrated in a van parked nearby.

Historical imagery suggests the 600 m long airstrip was paved a year prior — possibly in preparation for test and evaluation. Company video of the block 5’s maiden flight from March 2013 appears to match this airstrip.

One of the latest in the series, the block 5 was first displayed at Abu Dhabi’s International Defense Exhibition (IDEX) 2013 after a similar showing of a previous variant at IDEX 2011.

The block 5 preserves the unusual biplane configuration, though with some significant changes. Most notably, the block 5 swaps the aft fuselage-mounted single push propeller for twin-engine props positioned forward under-wing. The two 115 hp engines and 17.5 meter-long high aspect ratio wings allow the drone to carry payloads up to 1050kg — which includes the weight of two electro-optical cameras and optional synthetic aperture radar.

Like the previous version, the block 5 features an internal rotary launcher which contains six precision guided bombs, for a possible ten when including rear under-wing carriage. ADCOM reports the UAV has a maximum cruise speed of 220 km/h and a flight ceiling of 8,000 m. The company also claims a flight endurance of more than 100 hours. Unlike western counterparts, operators manning the associated ground control station can only pilot two of the UAVs at one time. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Bellingcat website.