The United Arab Emirates has ordered R180 million worth of Seeker unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Denel.
The deal was revealed at the Dubai Airshow last year, but further details have not been forthcoming.
On 15 November last year, Staff Pilot Air-Vice Marshal Abdulla Al Sayed Al Hashemi, official spokesman of the Dubai Airshow, announced that the UAE Armed Forces had signed an AED48.1 million (R182 million) deal with Denel Dynamics “to procure Seeker aircraft”, according to the Emirates News Agency.
The UAE is an existing customer for the Seeker, and received five Seeker IIs in 2002/2003 and another two in 2009/10. These were deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and have also been flown over Yemen – one was shot down in July 2015.
It is not yet clear if the UAE has ordered the newer and larger Seeker 400 or the successor to the Seeker II, the Seeker 200.
The Seeker II evolved from the Seeker I with better range and improved ground control. Additional payloads, such as electronic surveillance systems, were added. The Seeker II achieved a number of export sales, notably to Algeria and the UAE, who have used it successfully.
The further improved Seeker 200 features a multi-sensor payload combining EO/IR, laser designator and laser rangefinder as well as numerous enhancements to the ground station, mission control unit and tactical ground station. The Seeker 200 operates at ranges of up to 250 km from base and has an endurance of up to ten hours with a 40 kg payload. This can include an electronic intelligence package.
In 2010/11 Denel Dynamics began development of the larger Seeker 400, which was completed in 2016. It can be used for a wide range of military and civilian missions, including maritime surveillance and disaster reconnaissance. It has up to 16 hours endurance at altitudes up to 18 000 feet. At typical operating altitudes of between 4 500 and 9 000 feet, it is not visible from the ground by the human eye and is effectively inaudible. The UAV’s line-of-sight range is 250 km from its ground station, but this can be doubled by using a forward ground station with deployed forces. It can carry two sensor payloads (weighing a combined 100 kg) at the same time, such as an optronic sensor turret and a synthetic aperture radar, and can be armed with Impi-S missiles manufactured by Denel Dynamics.
The Seeker 400 has been ordered by the Defence Intelligence division of the South African National Defence Force, which took delivery of its first aircraft in late 2015. Their Seekers have been offered as a contribution to the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC). It appears the South African Air Force is now attempting to acquire its own Seeker 400s and is re-establishing 10 Squadron, which used to fly UAVs.
At the time of publication, Denel had not responded to requests for comment on the UAE’s Seeker purchase.