While many MALE UAV s were born as ISTAR (Intelligence Surveillance target Acquisition) platforms and then weaponised, at the Paris Air Show Turgis & Gaillard from France unveiled its Aarok, designed since inception to carry a heavy weapons load together with an effective ISTAR sensors suite
One of the stars at the Le Bourget static exhibition was definitely the Aarok, the 5,500 kg maximum take-off mass UAV under which a number of missiles and smart bombs were displayed. The architecture of this MALE UAV (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) is that of a light aircraft, with a front turboprop engine providing 1,200 shp and powering a five-blade propeller, a low 22 meters span wing providing the lift, while a conventional rear empennage ensures manoeuvrability. The fuselage is 14 metres long, which makes the Aarok bigger than the Reaper, not to mention its mass which is over the double, maximum payload being 1,500 kg. With that load, endurance is 24 hours, but should the Aarok be used for an ISTAR-only mission without weapons this would increases flight time to 30 hours. Cruise speed is 250 knots at 30,000 feet.
Fitted with an automatic take-off and landing system, it operates from short runways, and is equipped with two types of data link, one line of sight and one SATCOM. An optronic gimbal can be installed, its diameter going up to 25 inch; in Paris a Safran Electronics & Defense Euroflir 610 gimbal was displayed aside the airframe, this sensor system having been developed for the Eurodrone programme. It contains high resolution day and thermal optronics, laser target illuminator, designator and rangefinder, as well as an on-board automatic target recognition system. Thanks to the considerable payload capacity a second sensor, in the form of a multirole radar with maritime capability and ground mapping mode, can be installed making the Aarok a multi-mission UAV. Other electronic payloads can be fitted, such as ELINT, SIGINT and other electronic warfare systems, the Turgis & Gaillard UAV being also capable to act as radio relay.
Coming to weapons, the strong points can host two 500 kg guided bombs or four 250 kg ones, smaller weapons being also considered, up to 16 air-to-surface missiles being another possible load. At Le Bourget Safran E&D AASM long range strike weapons were visible.
EDR On-Line understood that the MALE UAV Aarok prototype was finished just prior the Paris Air Show, the company looking for as first flight before year end. According to information obtained, the first flights should be conducted with a pilot on board. No comments on a possible optionally piloted version were obtained, payload allowing such a solution; this might be helpful in deployment flights when regulation issues might make autonomous flight difficult.
Photos by P. Valpolini