Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Uqaab : Pakistan develops indigenous Drone !

Pakistan causes a buzz with its own UAV ! Uqaab , Jasoos, Bazz and Ababeel UAV or drones developed by Pakistan ! Private Pakistani company develops unique hand-launched mini-rocket UAV, called Firefly !

The Pakistan Army recently tested an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) called Uqaab. The presence of Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on the occasion shows how seriously the Pakistani military is taking the UAV concept in the modern day battlefield. While no specifications for the new UAV were issued, the high-profile presence of senior army officers on the occasion and the publicity that followed it made it clear that the new UAV was apparently a breakthrough over what the country had earlier produced in this field. “The flight data collected indicates that all design parameters have been successfully validated,” a statement issued on the occasion said, adding: “The performance of the UAV Uqaab can be compared to any of modern state-of-the-art UAV in its category. The successful flight test is a reflection of Pakistan’s technical prowess in the field of UAV technology.”There are several companies in Pakistan that are involved in UAV production.

One Pakistani firm, Integrated Dynamics of Pakistan, has made a unique hand-launched mini-rocket UAV, called Firefly. It is a high-speed, short-range observation system that can fly for eight seconds and costs around $3,000.

Another UAV made by the same firm is called Desert Hawk, which has an endurance of two hours.Recent reports have revealed that Pakistan is also acquiring two types of UAV from Europe.

These are a German EMT LUNA short-range battlefield reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition UAV and Italian Galileo Avionica’s Falco tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (TUAV).On the other hand, Turkey and Pakistan are also working on UAVs. In this regard, a letter of intent was signed between the TAI and the Air Weapons Complex (AWC) in 2007, under which the TAI would provide electromagnetic interference and electromagnetic compatibility tests of a flight control system and communication interface units for UAVs.

There is little doubt that UAVs are becoming increasingly important day by day. The US is the leader in UAV technology, followed by Israel and the European countries. However, the gap between the Americans and other nations in the technology is enormous and could not be met any time soon. While UAVs that can fly for up to 60 hours have been developed, the Americans are working on a UAV that would be maintenance-free and have an endurance of up to five years, giving them an unlimited advantage in terms of reconnaissance. At the moment, however, one of the most advanced UAVs is the 12,110kg Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk that has a range of more than 22,000 kilometres.The Predator is yet another UAV that is being extensively used for combat and reconnaissance missions on the Pak-Afghan border and in Iraq. One report recently revealed that the US has 163 UAV programmes in operation, compared to 50 by France, 31 by Israel and 25 by Pakistan.Nevertheless, the journey to produce high-quality unmanned air vehicles is not going to be easy for Pakistan as it involves several daunting challenges.

First, it is essential that UAVs should have a very high operational reliability for the mission for which they are developed. One area in this respect is a good engine, which probably is the most difficult aspect in the designing of a UAV. Designers have to make sure that the engine can support the airframe, does not quit when it is most needed and does not give the UAV away. The engines should have low vibration and, therefore, a low signature.It should be able to support long-endurance missions over the target.Another area of operational reliability for a UAV comes from its airframe, which should be able to support the mission in all types of conditions, especially rough weather.

A different but a mammoth challenge comes in the shape of a UAV’s capability for precision-flying in terms of altitude and flight path so as not to compromise the mission. This, however, is not an easy task. The designers would have to make sure that the UAV can fly over the target for long durations and in adverse weather during day and night. An additional area would be the mating of the equipment on board, especially high-resolution cameras, the sensors.

As it is, UAVs are being developed for both military and civilian use. For example, UAVs are being used in dangerous situations like flying over active volcanoes, near hurricanes and tornadoes, regions of high radioactivity, over the poles and deserts, for fire-fighting, observation of civil disturbances and natural disasters. The result is that the UAV market is expanding at a fast pace, especially in the military sector, and is expected to reach around $15 billion by 2010. The issue of UAVs, regrettably, has also been used by the Americans to justify their attack on Iraq, duping their lawmakers and the UN. In 2002, US Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed that the Iraqis had transported their advanced UAVs to ships in the Atlantic Ocean to launch biological- and chemical-weapon attacks on the US East Coast. Iraq, meanwhile, did not have any UAVs, only a few outdated training drones. However, in December 2002, in the first-ever, though asymmetrical, dogfight, an Iraqi MiG-25 using a missile downed a US Predator.

While the armed forces have been using UAVson the border with India, the country also requires UAVs to monitor the movement of unwanted elements on its western borders, especially during the night. Also, UAVs would be greatly helpful in tracking the movement of smugglers and insurgents in Balochistan. On the other hand, the Indians, who have been concentrating on acquiring Israeli UAVs in the face of their not-so-successful indigenous programme, have been using them on the Pakistani borders. In June 2002, Pakistan shot down an Israeli-built Searcher Mark-II, which was on an Indian Air Force mission. It goes without saying that in the present geo-strategic situation, Pakistan needs to have its own fleet of modern unmanned aerial vehicles to which the future of the skies belongs

Integrated Dynamics Develops Drones in Pakistan :

Looking at the facility from outside, no one would guess what goes on within the 90,000-square-foot research facility of Integrated Dynamics (ID), a privately owned company in Karachi. There are no signboards indicating that ID is in the business of developing drone technology for military and civilian use.

Surprisingly, there isn’t even an army of security guards manning the complex as one would expect upon entering the gate. A lonesome gate keeper lets us in without a fuss. Even more startling is the ease with which R.S. Khan, ID's chief executive, states that ‘drone technology has existed in Pakistan for the last 20 years.’ Khan, who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a master's degree in aeronautics and astronautics, is quick to clarify that his company has ‘never been asked to develop a drone which has an armed implication.’ Instead, ID develops advanced Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle (UAV) systems capable of reconnaissance missions as well as target decoys for anti-aircraft missiles. His customers, he says, include the armed forces of the country as well as foreign buyers from the US, Australia, Spain, Italy and France.

Although he may not have been asked to develop an armed drone, Khan, who previously worked as a consultant for Pakistan’s aerospace agency Suparco, points out: ‘If we consider the fact that drone development has been taking place in Pakistan for the last 20 years, I think the technology for flying long-range autonomous missions has existed for at least 10-12 years.’ Given Khan's estimations about local drone development, it is unclear why Pakistan is asking the US to handover its armed drone technology, especially that of the infamous Predator. President Asif Ali Zardari recently told the British daily Independent that the US should give Pakistan the ‘weapons, drones and missiles that will allow us to take care of’ the militant threat in the tribal areas.' ‘If you ask anyone in Pakistan involved in the business of making unmanned UAVs whether something similar to the Predator drone aircraft can be made, the answer would be yes,' explains Khan. 'I won’t say we can make it overnight or by tomorrow. But I won’t say either that it is a matter of decades. I would say that, if given the task, we can make such aircrafts in a few years.' As a technologist, Khan is hesitant to speculate as to why the Pakistan government or armed forces are not investing in home-made technology. 'I think you need to ask the policy makers that.

UAVs in Pakistan :
There are several public sector companies involved in developing UAVs in Pakistan, including the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Air Weapons Complex (AWC) and National Development Complex (NDC).

The PAC's Uqaab drone is in use by the Pakistan Army is being upgraded with Chinese help to carry a weapons payload. Other PAC UAVs include the Bazz and Ababeel. AWC's Bravo+ UAV is in use of the Pakistan Airforce (PAF). The PAF recently acquired an unarmed Italian drone called the Falco UAV, which is reportedly being used for surveillance and battleground assessments in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In 2008, the Pakistan Navy also reportedly completed trials of UAVs - the Austrian Schiebel Camcopter S-100 and Swedish Cybaero - from a Pakistani frigate in the Arabian Sea.

Private sector companies are also involved in the design and development of UAVs. Apart from ID in Karachi, East-West Infinity (EWI), Satuma and Global Industrial Defense Solutions (GIDS) are in the drone-making business.

The EWI's Heliquad UAV is considered a stealth design because of its small size and Whisper Watch signals intelligence package, which is capable of picking up radio and other communication signals. ID's Nishan Mk1 and TJ1000, Vision MK1 & MK2, Tornado, Border Eagle, Hornet, Hawk and Vector are also popular models employed by the armed forces for reconnaissance missions and target practice (each model varies in range and endurance). Satuma's UAVs, with similar functionalities, are called Flamingo, Jasoos and Mukhbar. For its part, the GIDS develops the Huma-1 UAV and its own version of the Uqaab.

Even though almost all UAVs in the country have been built for military applications - reconnaissance, simulations, decoy systems, remote sensing - none of them are reported to be capable of firing arms. Moreover, none of the above-mentioned facilities are involved in large-scale, mass production of UAVs.

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