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16 Dec 2022

'129 million to deliver cutting-edge mini drones for UK forces

'129 million to deliver cutting-edge mini drones for UK forces
Crown Copyright 2022
Originally posted by the UK's Ministry of Defence

More than 250 “portable” and “packable” mini drones will be delivered to the Armed Forces after the award of a contract worth £129 million to Lockheed Martin UK

  • Lockheed Martin UK awarded contract to deliver more than 250 mini drones
  • Drones will deliver high-resolution imaging capabilities to locate and identify potential targets
  • Jobs supported at Lockheed Martin UK and across the UK supply chain

Replacing existing Mini Uncrewed Aerial Systems (MUAS) such as Desert Hawk 3, the 159 rotary-wing Indago 4 devices and 105 fixed-wing Stalker VXE30 drones, which are both capable of locating and identifying targets far from the operator, are due to be operational by the end of 2024.

Weighing a little over 20 kilograms and with a 4.88 metre wingspan, the portable Stalker is an operationally proven, vertical-launched, near-silent drone providing more than eight hours of imaging capability and able to cover around 60 miles.

The packable drone, Indago 4, weighing only 2.27 kilograms, can be folded and carried in a soldier’s backpack and deployed in just two minutes with a range of approximately eight miles. Its high-resolution camera systems provide incredible zoom capability to accurately identify people, objects, vehicles and weapons, day or night.

Both drone platforms will deliver cutting-edge imaging and surveillance and provide greater capability for the Armed Forces, locating targets at multiple ranges across a variety of environments.

Minister for Defence Procurement, Alex Chalk KC said:

"As the global threat changes, it’s crucial we remain at the forefront of innovation, delivering cutting edge capabilities to our deployed forces.

This is another fantastic example of British industry supporting UK defence technology."

With proven effectiveness in this technology, Lockheed Martin UK will be the Systems Integrator for the duration of the 10-year contract, working with numerous Small and Medium Enterprises as well as larger UAV manufacturers to iteratively develop the capability through life. This will ensure operational advantage is maintained by UK Armed Forces by upgrading the drones, keeping pace with technological changes and emerging threats when required.

Already used by the US military, the drones are designed to provide small military formations with immediate ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) capability - an increasingly vital component of modern battle spaces.

Andy Start, DE&S CEO, said:

"These remotely piloted systems will enhance the ability of our soldiers to gather crucial intelligence and capture essential imagery in a tactical environment."

"As well as equipping the UK Armed Forces for operations now and into the future, this key programme supports highly skilled jobs for the next decade."

More than a dozen full-time UK jobs will be sustained at Lockheed Martin over the contract’s duration, mostly based at Havant and Gloucester, including engineering, commercial, project management and support roles. Further supply chain roles across the UK are expected to be supported throughout the contract.

Lockheed Martin UK will be the conduit to a collection of additional UK and international companies known as the “TIQUILA Enterprise”. This ensures that TIQUILA is able to access the best technology and ideas, as well as rapidly integrate them with their Stalker and Indago platforms.

Brigadier Pete Drew, the Army’s Senior Responsible Owner for the TIQUILA programme, said:

"TIQUILA will bring the next generation of remotely piloted air systems into service in the Army. It will provide the means for the capability to remain at the leading edge of innovation allowing it to adapt to new threats."

"It marks a significant milestone for the Land ISTAR programme, with TIQUILA being the first sensor to be digitally integrated into the wider ISTAR ecosystem. It will speed up decision making and will make us more lethal, responsive and resilient as a force, underlining the Army’s commitment to delivering Future Soldier as set out in the integrated review."

Air Commodore Steve Bentley, UKStratCom’s Senior Responsible Owner for TIQUILA, said:

"Employing a Systems Integrator approach will ensure that UK Defence is able to make the most of innovative development and Project TIQUILA’s rapid capability integration cycle, to deliver the latest and best capability into the hands of our users on the front line."

"Project TIQUILA will leverage competitive advantage from across the full spectrum of SMEs and Prime contractors, to ensure the UK is equipped with the best of breed and is able to make the most of the rapid pace of capability evolution."

Delivering on the Integrated Review, the mini drone capability will underline the British Army’s commitment to Future Solider, building an Armed Forces capable of tackling emerging threats and future challenges on the battlefield.

  • The TIQUILA Enterprise is a collection of suppliers including Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), incentivised by a commercial model that benefits both the innovators and the System Integrator.
  • The name TIQUILA combines previous military drone programme names.
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