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RAF buys spy planes to monitor enemies from the sky

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RAF buys spy planes to monitor enemies from the sky

Old 27th Aug 2008, 11:01
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RAF buys spy planes to monitor enemies from the sky

Article on the Daily Telegraph website

The Twin Star aircraft, which can fly for 18 hours a time and reach an altitude of 18,000ft, could be equipped with recorders to keep watch on terrorist suspects. Footage could then be beamed via satellite back to troop stations, other planes or offices in Britain.

It is believed that the two new aircraft, which can carry infrared cameras and ground-mapping radar, will be used by 39 Squadron, a unit comprising members from all three armed forces based at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, US.

The Squadron currently flies unmanned surveillance and bombing missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan by remote control.

The new planes are also expected to take over some spy tasks from RAF Nimrods.

An RAF source told the Sun newspaper: "With the right sensor array, they can see if a suspected terrorist is at home, listen in to and record his mobile calls and tell you if his car engine is hot, warm or cold."

The basic cost of the Canadian-made aircraft is £325,000, but it is believed that the RAF's customised, four-man versions cost £2 million to put together. They are able to fly for such long stretches as their engines, 1.7 litre petrol or turbo-diesel, are light and economical.

The MoD has confirmed that it purchased the two Twin Star planes. The RAF is also believed to be planning to buy unmanned Twin Star drone planes, which can fly for 30 hours continuously.
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 11:46
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Made in Canada? Not quite methinks. IIANM, the product is the Diamond Airborne Sensing DA-42 MPP (Multi-Purpose Platform). Built in Austria? But Aurora Flight Sciences (based in US, but also operating in Ontario??) are now appointed as a sales agent.
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 11:53
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Doesn't it have German engines and didn't the engine manufacturer go bust recently?
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 12:28
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Correct. Diamond uses the Thielert Aircraft Engines Centurion diesel. TAE ran into financial problems earlier in the year, but resumed production in June following "intensive negotiations with creditor banks and suppliers". I think they are still technically insolvent, but they are definitely supplying engines.

Diamond was also investigating an AVGAS engined variant for the US market. Not sure where that went.
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 15:02
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Looking at the details of the Da42 MPP ((see .pdf file) and the potential eighteen hour missions, one cannot help but hope that the crew of four are very good friends (but they may not be by the time they land...)
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 17:58
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Diamond DA42 MPP

I heard a while ago that the CEO of Diamond Aircraft had mentioned publically that two Diamond DA42 MPPs had been ordered by the UK MOD. These two aircraft appeared on the UK civil register as G-DOSA and G-DOSB and are now on the military register as ZA 179 and ZA 180 respectively. I understand both aircraft are currently as Boscombe Down. There is also a third aircraft at the Diamond factory (G-DOSC) that may possibly be held as an optional purchase by the MOD.

I believe the basic fit will include a day/night gyro-stabilised electro-optical sensor, a Scotty Satcom together with various radios and data links. Most likely the aircraft will operate with a crew of two with much of the data gathered interpreted in near real time on the ground.

The fully equipped DA42 MPP can operate in all weather conditions and at a wide range of speeds, from a minimum of 75 kts to a maximum of 152 kts (IAS). In monitoring mode the aircraft can fly for up to 12.5 hours without refuelling. The maximum range at 50% power setting is more than 1350 nm. The fully equipped DA42 MPP can operate in all weather conditions and at a wide range of speeds, from a minimum of 75 kts to a maximum of 152 kts (IAS). In monitoring mode the aircraft can fly for up to 12,5 hours without refuelling. The maximum range at 50% power setting is more than 1350 nm.

Israel’s Aeronautics company are already marketing an unmanned version of the DA 42, named the Dominator 2 and Diamond aim to deliver anywhere between 20 – 50 DA42 MPP’s next year. If the MOD order proves to be a success, I imagine further orders will soon follow.


Last edited by Heimdall; 27th Aug 2008 at 18:06. Reason: Diamond DA42 MPP
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 18:52
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Diamond have a dedicated DA42MPP operation, Diamond Airborne Sensing, who seem to be supplying aircraft (with provision for various sensor fits) to a variety of companies who then produce ISTAR versions. They may also market a kitted out aircraft for direct sale.

DIAMOND and Rheinmetall Defence Electronics have developed the OPALE (Optional Piloted Aerial Long Endurance) platform, IAI offer the Dominator UAV version, while Aurora and DO Systems are also offering DA42MPP ISTAR variants.

When I spoke to DO Systems (about three weeks ago), they were tight-lipped and unwilling to discuss it "at this stage" but seemed keen to talk again in a few months. They acknowledged a UK requirement (which they said was still being refined and defined). They would not discuss the requirement, or the proposed equipment fit of their DA42MPP but contrasted it with the OPALE, which they described as having a 'higher level integration'. They did not confirm or deny whether their's would be optionally manned, and certainly made no mention of providing dedicated drones.

I approached DO Systems after hearing that there was an order going through for six DA42MPPs, which were to be fitted out by DO Systems, painted at Thruxton by Edmonsons and perhaps crewed by Tony Buckingham or www.helicrew.co.uk - WELCOME and after becoming aware that there are FIVE further UK military serials allocated to DA42s (in addition to '179 and 180). These comprise another ZA and four ZJs. These presumably include G-DOSC.

Open source material on the DO Systems version suggest that it will be day/night single pilot IFR certified, and will have "A high specification Gyro-Stabilised Electro-Optic and Thermal infra-red surveillance camera such as the Flir Safire III and Westcam MX15 fitted for sustained area or specific target surveillance. Should it be desired HD (High Definition) digital output is now available. A surface mapping radar can also be bore-sighted to the camera, this can prove a great asset when used in the nautical environment. All these sensors allow quality data gathering at discreet stand off distances. Numerous other sensors can also be fitted to the aircraft.

Data linking
Microwave (CoFDM) transmission of secure encrypted video data can be simultaneously transmitted to hand held ground receivers, and to base stations up to 100 Km away. Likewise encrypted data transfer over satcom (Including video streaming) allows worldwide receipt of time critical surveillance information."
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 19:53
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CTRL+F does not find the word "galley" anywhere.
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 19:54
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Exactly what I suggested several months ago - maybe MOD reads PPRuNe:

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Old 27th Aug 2008, 20:04
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What lucky, lucky, lucky fellows are going to get to fly a light piston a/c hot, high and for 18 hours at a time? They must have friends in high places!
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 20:19
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I wonder if these will end up carrying the Thales LMM missile..?
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 20:24
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Well hopefully Diamond get their own (Austro) engine up and running soon so that they can get back on track with making a living, the Theilert engine/drivetrain is a joke, something like 300 hours before the reduction gearbox needs to be replaced (if I remember correctly).
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 21:30
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18hrs in a plastic pig - no thanks!

The U2/TR1 mission is about 10-12hrs, they use a catheter type device and have astronaut style food - and they are next to useless for the next day after a mission. If we are really considering this for 18hrs then the UAV option has got to be the only way. Even at 12hrs the crew will be knackered and their performance will drop right off after 8hrs or so.

If we're considering less than 8hrs then why not go for something bigger like a KA-350 or Islander, if you know what I mean Or buy more Reapers with weapons' clearances and 8hrs+++ on station? Or a Zephyr derivative with 3 day's+ endurance?

I can't understand what this GA tourer will bring to an already crowded party???!

PS This is a Zephyr and its a British bit of kit...

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Old 27th Aug 2008, 21:51
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Ah Zephyr, 61K ft+ Days/weeks/months endurance and all on less power than a Nimjets galley uses. Crew still eats well though.
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 21:54
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From a public forum:

UK MOD Airspace Change Proposal for Unmanned Aircraft

Stakeholder Consultation
The use of unmanned aircraft by UK Armed Forces is rapidly growing as a result of their proven success in recent conflicts. As a result, the Ministry of Defence is enhancing its current capability by procuring a ‘new generation’ of unmanned aircraft.

Reasons for the change
Current UK policy specifies that unmanned aircraft activity beyond line of sight must be conducted within a Danger Area or other segregated airspace. The Ministry of Defence already conducts routine flights of its current unmanned aircraft in the segregated airspace above Salisbury Plain; however, this airspace alone is insufficient to accommodate the full training requirements of the unmanned aircraft currently being procured. This proposal seeks to establish additional segregated airspace, in the form of a Danger Area, to overcome this shortfall.

Affected Areas
The proposed new airspace, which has a base level of approximately 8,000 ft, is bounded between Warminster, Andover, Stockbridge and Shaftesbury and is bordered by the existing Salisbury Plain Danger Areas.

Could be a coincidence, but I doubt it. Who would want to spend more than a few 'hours building' moments in one of those
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 22:03
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Airborne Control for your UCAV

Maybe the light twin is the GCS (Ground Station - which is actually airborne!) for your RAF's MQ-9, which I understand uses Ku Satellite tech link to fly from a remote location. If your GCS was inside an aircraft at (say) 15000, and your Reaper UCAV was at (say) 15000 also, you would have a Line of Sight 'Tether' over the entire AOR, and therefore you would not need the Ku at all, nor its associated infrastructure, .....or is this dreaming.
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 23:10
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Hope they've got the problems with the engines and FADEC sorted.

From memory a rather substantial civilian FTO had to swop their fleet of fancy new Twin Stars for an ageing Beech Duchess fleet!! (Don't know if they've swopped back yet or not).
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Old 28th Aug 2008, 01:46
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CTRL+F does not find the word "galley" anywhere
It doesn't find the word "toilet" either. Hope everyone remembers to go before they go or they'll be feet deep by the time they get back
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Old 28th Aug 2008, 09:09
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Where they will most likely have problems is heat build up in the aircraft on the ground if used in hot places. The DA42 has no aircon and so if you have long way to taxi or are held up at a holding point, then the guys are going to roast. Not a nice way to start a long flight. Once airborne the cockpit temperature gets a bit more reasonable, but is still fairly warm in direct sunlight.
Hardly the best aeroplane for anywhere such as Iraq or Afghanistan then....

Did you have anything more suitable than a Vulcan pee-tube in the cockpit with you for your 7 hour flights?

If the cockpit gets as hot as you suggest, presumably there will be a need for a lot of water to keep the crew hydrated for 12 hours? Where will that be kept - and how heavy will it be?

The use of such lightplanes in operational theatres is not as simple as the beancounters would appear to understand.
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Old 28th Aug 2008, 10:31
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Seconds Out!

Thankfully, because the operating crews of light fixed-wing ISTAR are soldiers, they won't whinge, bleat and moan about pee-tubes and hydration. They will prepare themselves thoroughally for flight, keep fit to fly while operating, and then be ready to go again fairly swiftly.

Beags, the operation of fixed-wing ISTAR is these theatres is very simple. If you had been, you might know.....
Oh oh, another Beags -v- brandnew flame fest is in the offing...
(cf Falklands Airbridge thread)

Beags - calm, calm, deep breaths, there - thats better. Now go for it
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