The Air & Space Force’s VADOR “light intelligence aircraft has finally been declared operational

Delivered in 2020 to the 54th Airborne Electronic Squadron 1/54 “Dunkirk”, with two delays, the first two light surveillance and intelligence aircraft [ALSR] “VADER” [pour « Vecteur aéroporté de désignation, d’observation et de reconnaissance »] should have been declared operational during the summer of 2021 after a year of experiments conducted under the leadership of the ISR tag team from the Military Air Expertise Center [CEAM]. As long as nothing happened.

According to information from Air & Cosmos, it turned out that Star Saphire optonic spheres, supplied by the American group Teledyne Technologies Inc, via the subsidiary FLIR Systems, did not live up to expectations, as the quality of their images left much to be desired compared to others. systems, such as the Wescam MX-20, which, for example, are equipped with Atlantique 2 from the French navy.

The choice of the opronic Star Saphire ball had been dictated by budgetary requirements … But the cost savings always end up being expensive. Because it was obviously necessary to replace these inefficient systems with others of better quality …

In any case, and at a time when 1/54 Dunkirk will be disposing of its two Transall C-160 Gabriel electronic intelligence planes, the withdrawal of service from all odds was accelerated [c’est à dire sans attendre les Falcon Archange, ndlr], these two VADOR ended up being declared operational. This is truly what Joël Barre, General Delegate for Weapons [DGA]during a recent Senate hearing [le compte-rendu vient d’être publié, nldr].

“We have also carried out acceleration operations in the field of intelligence, especially regarding the deployment of light surveillance and intelligence aircraft, for the benefit of our forces. The first two aircraft were put into operation in March last year, “said Barre, referring to the capabilities that have been the subject of particular attention since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As a reminder, the ALSR program had been notified to Thales and Sabena Technics in 2016, as these two manufacturers are responsible for installing sensors to collect intelligence of electromagnetic origin [ROEM] and original image intelligence [ROIM] aboard two Beechcraft King Air 350. Six other units will be delivered to the Air & Space Force by 2030.

In addition to the VADORs, Mr Barre also indicated that the DGA had “accelerated the acceptance of electromagnetic intelligence capacity during flight. [CERES], launched at the end of 2021, will be used for the first time ”. And to add: “Our intelligence services have already been able to take advantage of the first opportunities in these satellites.”

The CERES constellation consists of three satellites launched into orbit by a Vega rocket on 16 November. Their mission is to collect data to locate and characterize transmitters [radars, télécommunications, etc]. Their commissioning was not expected for the time being.

In addition, Mr Barre spoke on “emergency operations” to give French forces the capabilities they need to deal with the conflict in Ukraine. Among these, he mentioned the AR-LAD system [adaptation réactive pour la lutte anti-drones]which is developed by the Army Technical Section [STAT].

“The challenge is to equip vehicles with armored front [VAB] an anti-drone detection radar and an effector capable of destroying drones – a 12.7 millimeter machine gun – which is also planned to have a grenade launching capability, ”explained the DGA.

The idea of ​​STAT is actually to connect a radar to a grenade launcher to equip an “AR-LAD” VAB with an “Airbust” capability. It is clear that the grenade explodes about two meters from a drone to pierce it with shrapnel and cause it to fall. Such an apparatus could be particularly useful against swarms of drones.

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