A Denel Seeker 400 crashed during a test flight in late 2019, resulting in significant damage being sustained to the airframe.
Photos recently emerged on social media of the crashed aircraft, which apparently came down in the northern part of the country. The aircraft descended by emergency parachute, indicating engine failure, but sustained a broken horizontal tail and damaged engine bay. The propeller was more or less intact, indicating it was not rotating at the time of impact. The landing gear partially collapsed in the impact and the nose and sensor turret (Hensoldt Optronics LEO) were damaged.
defenceWeb understands that the aircraft was on a company test flight when the mishap occurred on 12 December 2019. It is believed the aircraft was being tested for a customer.
It is not clear who the customer is, but it is likely to be Defence Intelligence, as the Seeker 400 was painted with the South African flag. However, it is possible it may have been for the United Arab Emirates, which has also ordered the type.
The South African National Defence Force (Defence Intelligence) was the launch customer for the Seeker 400, and took delivery of its first aircraft in late 2015, although operational testing and evaluation by Defence Intelligence division was still underway in 2019 ahead of the type being granted full military type certification.
In its 2019/20 annual report, Denel stated that the Seeker 400 achieved its interim military type certification and was in operational test and evaluation with the end user.
Denel in 2019 revealed that an undisclosed client in the Middle East (the UAE) had ordered six Seeker 400 aircraft in its first export order. The UAE during the IDEX show in February 2021 announced a further order for Seeker 400s for its Presidential Guard.
The Seeker 400 is somewhat unusual in that it can carry two sensor payloads (weighing a combined 100 kg) at the same time, such as an optronic sensor turret like the Argos II and a synthetic aperture radar or electronic intelligence package.
The Seeker 400 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. The Seeker 400 can be armed, including with lightweight Impi and Impi-S missiles or the P2. The Impi series is based on the laser-guided Mokopa, but scaled down for lightweight platforms like UAVs.