A Denel Dynamics Seeker II unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was apparently shot down over Yemen last week.
Footage broadcast by the Al-Masirah news channel on 5 July showed what appears to be a Seeker II, with a component containing an identification plate saying “Made in South Africa Carl Zeiss Optronics Pty Ltd.”
This is the South African subsidiary of Carl Zeiss Optronics, now Airbus Defence & Space Optronics. The company has supplied the Goshawk-II payload for the Seeker. The crashed aircraft apparently also carried a laser rangefinder/designator.
The Seeker II is believed to belong to the United Arab Emirates, which has previously deployed its Seeker IIs to Afghanistan in 2009. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that of the nine nations participating in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, the UAE is the only one known to fly the Seeker. The UAE Air Force has operated the Seeker II for some 20 years.
The Seeker can range 250 kilometres from its base station and up to 400 km if control is handed to a tactical ground station. The system has a 10-hour flight endurance. Its service ceiling is 18 000 feet and it can carry multi-mission payloads of up to 40 kg. A system consists of four to six air vehicles, a mission control unit, a tracking and communication unit, various payloads, field support equipment and an optional tactical ground station. The air vehicle sports a fuselage 4.2 metres long, with a wingspan of 6m and a mass of 180 kg.
The Seeker II was developed from the Seeker I that retired from South African Air Force service in 2004. The South African Artillery developed a requirement for a UAV in 1977. Denel Dynamics antecedent Kentron was contracted to develop a system for the Artillery and tactical intelligence corps under Project Gharra. Initial cooperation with Israeli Aircraft Industries resulted in the Scout, an air vehicle with a conventional aluminium airframe. Delivered from about 1982, the system was built under licence and was apparently unpopular with operators. Under a later decision, the Artillery withdrew from the project. Rivalry then between the Army and Air Force over the ownership and control of the system then came to a head, resulting in the transfer of the system to the SA Air Force. The Artillery only recently gained a UAV, the ATE Vulture, as part of the Project Klooster.
The first glass-fibre airframed Seeker was delivered in 1986, by which time it was an Air Force project. The Seeker made its debut in support of Operation Moduler from September 1987 in southeast Angola.
Denel Dynamics recently upgraded the venerable Seeker II to become the Seeker 200.