Drone Reaper : le Congrès américain ne s’oppose pas une vente à la France

15/07/2013

Le Congrès américain ne s’est pas opposé à la vente par le groupe américain General Atomics de drones d’observation MQ-9 Reaper à la France. Ils doivent remplacer les drones français Harfang, qui sont dépassés technologiquement.

Le projet de vente de drones de surveillance Reapers à la France a passé une étape cruciale avec l’absence d’opposition à ce contrat du Congrès américain, a-t-on appris lundi auprès de l’agence du Pentagone chargée des ventes d’armements à l’étranger. La DSCA (Defense Security Cooperation Agency) avait notifié au Congrès le 27 juin ce projet de contrat. Ce dernier disposait alors de 15 jours pour éventuellement s’y opposer, ce qu’il n’a pas fait. « Le Congrès n’a pas émis de résolution conjointe de réprobation. L’affaire peut se poursuivre », a affirmé à l’AFP une porte-parole de la DSCA, Lorna Jons.

Le ministre de la Défense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, a annoncé le 11 juin son intention d’acheter 12 Reaper aux Etats-Unis, au groupe General Atomics, une acquisition dont la facture est évaluée par ses services à 670 millions d’euros. Les deux premiers, actuellement en production et initialement destinés à l’US Air Force, devraient être livrés d’ici à la fin de l’année. Ces drones doivent remplacer les drones Harfang dont dispose Paris, mais qui sont dépassés technologiquement.

Une aide à la France

Dans son avis de notification au Congrès, la DSCA présentait le projet de fourniture à la France de « 16 MQ-9 Reaper, d’équipements associés, de pièces de rechange, d’entraînement et de soutien logistique pour un coût estimé de 1,5 milliard de dollars » (environ 1,15 milliard d’euros). Le chiffre de drones avancé par la DSCA, supérieur aux annonces françaises, n’est pas une pratique inhabituelle car elle permet de ne pas avoir à retourner devant le Congrès si le client décide d’acheter plus de matériel qu’envisagé a priori.

La DSCA, favorable à cette vente, justifiait au Congrès l’intérêt pour les Etats-Unis de fournir ces drones à la France, arguant du fait qu' »il est vital pour l’intérêt national des Etats-Unis d’aider la France à développer et maintenir une capacité d’auto-défense forte et immédiate ». « Cette vente potentielle renforcera les capacités de renseignement, de surveillance et de reconnaissance (ISR) de l’armée française » ainsi que l’interopérabilité avec l’armée américaine, plaidait la DSCA. L’accord entre Washington et Paris ne comporte pas de compensation industrielle, selon l’agence.

Source : AFP / La Tribune

Russia to Build Mini Drone for Vietnam

MOSCOW, March 15 (RIA Novosti)

Russian warplane maker Irkut has signed a contract with Vietnam to build a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the Southeast Asian country, Izvestia daily reported on Thursday.

The $10 million deal, with Vietnam Aerospace Association (VASA), was signed on Wednesday, Yury Malov, head of the Irkut Engineering, Irkut’s subsidiary, told Izvestia.

The firm will build a 100-kilogram mini-drone, as well as transmitting and remote control systems to operate it. It will also help « teach the Vietnamese side how to maintain and use the drones » until VASA « has had the experience » enabling it to build the UAVs itself, Malov said.

He said the UAVs are intended for civilian use but could « in future » be used for defense purposes.

VASA refused to confirm it had struck the deal.

Irkut has already built UAVs for Belarus.

Malov said Irkut may launch a « serial production » of UAVs for Vietnam should it like the Russian drone.

Drones : vers une collaboration France / Allemagne

Le 24 novembre 2011 par Rémy Maucourt

Le secrétaire d’Etat allemand à la défense affirme jeudi qu’il est favorable à des programmes d’armement communs entre les deux pays. Le projet le plus urgent reste le développement de drones européens.

« De la concurrence sur des programmes du passé, nous devons passer à des projets communs pour le futur. » Stéphane Beemelmans, secrétaire d’Etat à la défense allemand, s’affiche dans un entretien à La Tribune favorable à de nouveaux projets de défense entre les deux pays.

Le responsable allemand a précisément évoqué les projets de drones actuellement à l’étude en France et en Allemagne. « Je ne crois pas à deux projets de cette envergure au niveau européen », a-t-il expliqué, affirmant travailler « pour aboutir à un projet unique ».

Deux projets avancent en parallèle en Europe pour mettre au point une nouvelle génération d’appareils sans pilotes. Le drone Telemos est proposé conjointement par Dassault Aviation et le britannique BAE Systems, auxquels pourrait aussi s’associer le groupe italien Finmeccanica. En face, EADS développe son drone Talarion. Le groupe européen a récemment signé un accord de coopération avec Turkish Aerospace Industries.

Stéphane Beemelmans estime que la poursuite de ces deux projets concurrents ne se justifie pas, pour des raisons d’interopérabilité, de prix, d’entretien, d’emploi, et de budget. Cette situation rapelle un scénario déjà connu : l’Europe a développé parallèlement deux avions de combat, le Rafale (Dassault) et l’Eurofighter (EADS/Alenia/BAe Systems). Ces deux avions sont aujourd’hui en concurrence pour équiper les armées indiennes et émiraties.

Source: L’Usine Nouvelle

Small, silent UAV for covert urban operations

Published 15 August 2011

A 9-pound man-packable UAV called Ghost is designed for silent urban operations in daylight and at night; Ghost’s two rotary electrical engines allow it to operate in complete silence, provide real-time intelligence to ground forces working in cities and towns where densely located buildings and other urban cover can conceal enemy forces, terrorists, or other hostile combatants; the UAV is ideally suitable for law enforcement as well

Columbus, Mississippi-based Stark Aerospace, an Israel Aircraft Industry (IAI) North America company, is showing its 9-pound twin-rotor man-packable UAV called Ghost for silent urban operations in daylight and at night. IAI will unveil the covert-operations UAV this week at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems North America trade show being held in Washington, D.C. on 16-19 August. Observatoire de l’Industrie reports that the Ghost small hovering UAV which looks like a smaller – much, much smaller — version of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook twin-rotor heavy-lift helicopter. It is designed to provide real-time intelligence to ground forces working in cities and towns where densely located buildings and other urban cover can conceal enemy forces, terrorists, or other hostile combatants.

The UAV can be fitted with different imaging equipment and sensors, such as visible-light cameras and infrared sensors. Sensor data can be data-linked back to operators.

The Ghost UAV-helicopter has automatic vertical takeoff and landing capability and can loiter for as long as thirty minutes. IAI engineers designed the system with two rotary electrical engines so it can operate silently and support day and night special operations missions.

IAI designed the Ghost UAV and its control system based on computer gaming to make the system intuitive for operators, who need little training to work the system, company officials say. Two soldiers can carry the entire system in their backpacks. System components include two UAVs, batteries, control unit, and communications. Ghost is suitable for paramilitary and homeland security applications, IAI officials say.

Source: homelandsecuritynewswire.com

IAI to Unveil « Ghost », a Rotary Mini UAV System at AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems North America

Aug. 8, 2011

BEN GURION INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Israel

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will present the Ghost, an innovative, small hovering unmanned platform at AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems North America , August 16-19, in Washington, DC.

Ghost weighs approximately 4 kg (9 lbs), and provides real-time intelligence to ground forces operating in urban areas. Ghost is equipped with an automatic vertical takeoff & landing system and can loiter for up to 30 minutes. The system was designed with twin rotary electrical engines so it can be silent and support day and night special operation missions.

The unique man-machine interface and operational concept is based on the principles of computer games and makes the system extremely intuitive to operate and requires little training. The entire system can be carried in backpacks by two soldiers and includes: two platforms, batteries, and a command and control unit with communications. Ghost is suitable for paramilitary and homeland security applications due to its simplicity and ease of operation.

Itzhak Nissan, IAI’s President and CEO, said: « The innovative concepts used to develop Ghost highlight IAI’s goal to do its utmost to support the ground forces. GHOST demonstrates IAI’s leading technology and know-how gathered through years of experience in unmanned aerial systems. »

Ghost will be on display at Booth 713 – Stark Aerospace, a subsidiary of IAI North America. Other UAVs on display will include the ETOP (Electric Tethered Observation Platform) and the Heron UAS. Heron recently reached full operational capability as part of the German Air Force’s activities in Afghanistan.

Israel Aerospace Industries is one of Israel’s leading technological-industrial companies with around 16,000 employees, generates annual sales of approximately US$3.3 billion. The Company has gained worldwide recognition as the leader in the development of aviation and aerospace technology in the military and civilian markets alike

IAI/Malat Division is one of the world’s most experienced unmanned air vehicle system manufacturers. With more than 900,000 UAV flight hours and 35 years of operational experience by 48 customers and more than 30 years of operational experience in system development, integration, manufacturing, providing integrated logistics support, depot maintenance and technical assistance to fielded operational systems.

Drone Impact On Pace Of War Draws Scrutiny

Jul 8, 2011

By Paul McLeary, Sharon Weinberger, Angus Batey
Washington, Washington, London

There is an unofficial but lethal drone war taking place over Pakistan, Yemen and Libya that has expanded the area of operation for U.S. forces beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, with no real acknowledgement from the government that anything extraordinary is happening. The undeclared conflict on these three fronts might be the first Drone War, and warfare has never seen anything like it.

On just one front of this undeclared war, in Pakistan, the U.S. had launched 37 drone strikes this year as of June and 118 in all of 2010.

The simultaneous use of remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) over Pakistan, Yemen and Libya, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, typically operated by crews in the Nevada desert, raises certain questions. Would the U.S. engage in such a wide-ranging air campaign if it were conducted only with manned aircraft flying from overseas bases and carrier strike groups? Has the use of unmanned systems led to more warfare, in more places, because of the smaller logistics tail and the fact that pilots’ lives are not at risk?

“The issue is not whether or not the aircraft is manned,” says Lt. Gen. (ret.) David Deptula, former U.S. Air Force first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and principal air attack planner during Operation Desert Storm, the runup to the 1991 Persian Gulf war. “We would do what we’re doing if the only way we could do it is with a man in the aircraft.”

Deptula maintains that operating over permissive environments such as Yemen or Pakistan—where the tacit or explicit approval of the host government has been granted—means that the threat to pilots is limited, and that “taking the human out of the cockpit simply allows the capability of persistence to be exploited.” In other words, the ability of remotely piloted systems to hover over targets for hours before striking is what leads policymakers and combatant commanders to make use of them in these situations, not because there is no risk to American lives.

In his view, UAVs don’t “lower the threshold to the application of force,” but enable “a perspective that we didn’t have when you had a person in the cockpit”—namely, persistence. A General Atomics Predator or Reaper drone can loiter well beyond the capability of a manned aircraft, which gives it the ability to wait out an enemy while it gathers the intelligence needed for a planning a strike. Deptula has long railed against the word “unmanned” when it comes to drones, since “it nominally takes about 180 people to maintain a single orbit. The majority of those people are analysts. You don’t have that in manned aircraft.”

From a legal standpoint, U.S. government officials are adamant that using a drone to kill an enemy is no different than employing manned aircraft. “[The] rules that govern targeting do not turn on the type of weapon system used, and there is no prohibition under the laws of war on the use of technologically advanced weapon systems in armed conflict—such as pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs—so long as they are employed in conformity with applicable laws of war,” Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser to the U.S. State Department, said at this year’s annual meeting of the American Society of International Law in Washington. “Indeed, using such advanced technologies can ensure both that the best intelligence is available for planning operations and that civilian casualties are minimized in carrying out such an operation.”

A secondary question is whether drone operators are more or less likely to drop bombs than manned aircraft. Precious little research has been done on how the people operating drones—particularly those responsible for the weapons—are affected psychologically, or more importantly, whether they are affected differently than those flying manned aircraft. An Air Force Research Laboratory study in 2010 compared drone operators to gunship pilots and found similarities.

But there are also differences. For example, subject matter experts interviewed by the study’s authors cited cases where sensor operators, after having to kill enemy forces, decided they weren’t comfortable doing so and changed jobs. “They reported such SOs (sensor operators) performed their surveillance and reconnaissance duties well, but emotionally struggled with their role in taking lives of others, regardless of the threat enemy combatants posed to U.S. and allied forces,” the study found. “[Subject matter experts] reported such SOs experienced significant internal conflict with their role, and that such a conflict did not become apparent until the SO was faced with a real-life situation or fully educated about the nature of their combat-related duties.”

In other words, UAV sensor operators may have more problems with releasing weapons than gunship crews, and thus might require even more motivation to do their jobs, the authors wrote.

Pilots or drone operators can only fly where their military and civilian bosses tell them to and conduct the missions they’ve been tasked to do. The notion that having access to armed, unmanned platforms may make it easier for the order to be given to fly lethal missions, and therefore permit politicians to take nations to war sooner, or without the planning and deliberation that is essential to engaging in conflict, is one that the U.K. Defense Ministry has considered. The ministry’s Development, Concepts and Doctrine Center released a report titled “The U.K. Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems” in March, which states “ . . . the recent extensive use of unmanned aircraft over Pakistan and Yemen may already herald a new era. That these activities are exclusively carried out by unmanned aircraft, even though very capable manned aircraft are available, and that the use of ground troops in harm’s way has been avoided, suggests that the use of force is totally a function of an unmanned capability.”

“I actually disagree that [the U.K. is] doing anything differently because of the unmanned technology,” says Wing Cdr. Chris Thirtle, Royal Air Force desk officer and policy lead for remotely piloted air systems. “From a U.K. perspective, I sense there is no change in political appetite just because of the advent of unmanned aircraft. They don’t change what we do, they don’t influence what we do; they just give us a better, and hopefully safer, way of doing it.”

In Afghanistan, too, experience suggests that decisions to strike are not being taken more hastily because of remotely piloted platforms. Rather, it is another factor inherent in the current generation of unmanned aircraft that is changing the nature of warfare.

Thirtle and Deptula have much in common in their assessments of what capabilities UAVs give the U.S. and U.K., with the aircraft’s ability to loiter above a target for hours being the critical factor that changes the potential battlefield below. “What the unmanned system gives that we’ve not had before is the persistent presence that enables us to know when we want to deliver an effect and where we need to deliver it,” says Thirtle. “In a congested, cluttered, complex battlespace, persistence is becoming more and more valuable. A single snapshot just gives you a picture. Your understanding of that picture could change if you saw what was happening there 5 minutes before or 5 seconds later. That is what’s changing the way we consider how we use our pieces on the chessboard. I think we’ve understood the benefits of persistence,” he adds, “and you’ll see a drive to keep that card in hand.”

DTI saw the benefits of persistence at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, in September 2009, while embedded with the U.S. Army’s Task Force ODIN, an acronym for observe, detect, identify and neutralize. The task force’s mix of contractors and enlisted personnel teamed up to operate General Atomics MQ‑1C Warrior drones on surveillance and overwatch missions as well as lethal runs (DTI November 2009, p. 16).

Since the aircraft can fly 24 hr. at a time, teams would swap out every 7 hr. to keep a fresh set of eyes on the ground at all times. DTI was allowed into the flight-control pod to observe a live night raid at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan, and the hours on station that the drone provided gave the insertion team on the ground an unprecedented look into the “pattern of life” inside the compound’s walls hours before their helicopters touched down—intel that was pored over in real time by analysts in multiple locations via a secure online chat function.

Another mission the ODIN crews were practicing at the time—and which has since been put to lethal effect—was teaming with Army Apache helicopter crews. During the test runs DTI observed, an Apache crew would laser-designate a target that a Warrior UAV would hit, or a Warrior designated a target that an Apache would strike. In this mission the value of keeping a persistent watch on a target is combined with the ability of a helicopter crew to see a wider view of an area, something unavailable to a drone’s operators.

The stress operators can experience on long missions is a concern, however. There are advantages to removing a pilot from an airframe—the calm, comfortable “cockpit” environment of a drone operator and access to more intelligence and advice should enable greater concentration and better decision-making. But unmanned aviation technology has its own unique set of pressures—everything an operator sees, hears and reads is stored, and all decisions taken can be subject to a greater degree of analysis and evaluation after a mission than would be possible with a manned platform. The remote operator may be under increased pressure to justify every decision taken during a mission. Greater persistence also means longer time on station than for a manned platform, and the view through the “cockpit windshield” is not of ground several miles below, but close-up sensor footage of buildings, vehicles and people—friend and foe alike.

Air Cdr. Stuart Atha, the U.K. Defense Ministry’s head of Joint Capability, and in 2009-10 the air component commander in Afghanistan, addressed the question of the effect “prolonged exposure to death and destruction via near-real-time video” may have on aircrews in a recent speech to defense experts in London.

“The crews are distant but not detached,” he said. “While they operate at no direct physical risk they are subject to psychological and emotional stresses. Yet the evidence shows that occupational rather than operational issues, such as the long hours worked, the need to maintain a heightened awareness over long periods, and in particular the constant juggling of domestic and professional life, are the more prevalent causes of stress.”

In the present climate, with Britain’s economic uncertainties pointing to further cuts in defense budgets, remotely piloted operations offer a rare area of growth. And while the Reaper drone remains an Urgent Operational Requirement and is not at present expected to remain in the RAF inventory after the U.K. withdraws from Afghanistan, the Scavenger Istar (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) UAV requirement, set to be finalized in 2012 with a view to initial operating capability around 2018, will keep the RAF invested in remotely piloted air system capabilities. From being an uncertain berth in a changing service, remotely piloted aircraft may offer one of the more secure career paths in the British military.

While the U.S. isn’t hiding the fact that it is flying missions against targets in Pakistan and Yemen, the U.K. is more careful about its Afghanistan operations. Penetrating foreign airspace is still penetrating foreign airspace, Thirtle says, echoing Deptula’s contention that not having a pilot in the cockpit doesn’t really change the nature of the situation. “Speaking hypothetically,” Thirtle continues, “there’s much less political fallout from having a bunch of wreckage found on the wrong side of the border than a captured airman or a body. However, I’ve seen and heard nothing that gives me any sense that wreckage falling on the wrong side of the border is acceptable just because it’s unmanned.

“The U.K. operates remotely piloted aircraft systems only in Afghanistan. The border is considered so sacrosanct that you put another border inside the real border, so that even if your navigation system drifts slightly, there is no danger you will have infringed somebody else’s airspace.”

In the U.S., remotely piloted aircraft are also creating career paths. The Air Force Academy’s class of 2011 was the first in which graduates planned to specialize in operating remotely piloted aircraft—32 of 1,021 graduates selected this field. In the Army, enlisted soldiers operate the UAVs and surveillance equipment, though Army pilots or contract pilots handle takeoffs and landings.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the CIA is now preparing to launch a major drone operation over Yemen. The aircraft will conduct surveillance and attack missions, using operations over Pakistan as a blueprint. This, of course, adds another wrinkle to the debate over the increasing use of unmanned platforms for targeted killings in countries where the U.S. isn’t technically at war.

Source: defense technology international

Can You Design, Build and Fly the Next-Generation UAV?

Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) play a critical role in modern military operations. The next generation of these aerial robotic systems needs to have enhanced takeoff and landing capabilities, better endurance, require less support equipment and be adaptable to mission needs in varying conditions.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, Atlantic (SSC Atlantic) call on innovators of every kind; scientists, engineers, citizen scientists and dreamers to collaborate on the UAVForge Challenge and win $100,000 USD.

The UAVForge challenge uses crowdsourcing to build small UAVs through an exchange of ideas and design practices. The goal is to build and test a user-intuitive, backpack-portable UAV that can quietly fly in and out of critical environments to conduct sustained surveillance for up to three hours.

According to Jim McCormick, DARPA program manager, “The UAVForge crowd-sourced approach seeks to capture and mature novel ideas and systems integration methods from communities outside the traditional DoD acquisition process.”

Self-selected teams will participate in a series of peer-reviewed milestones where participant rating will identify the top ten teams that advance to the UAVForge Fly-Off Competition. During the competition, vehicles will be tested in a simulated high-stress surveillance mission.

“This is a fascinating challenge and the solution space is wide open,” explained McCormick. “We’re excited to see what innovative ideas emerge, so we’re trying to give individuals and teams lots of time to develop their concepts prior to the initial design submission date planned for late this fall.”

The winning team will be awarded $100,000 and the opportunity to showcase its design in an overseas military exercise. Additionally, the winning team will work with a government-selected UAV manufacturer to produce a limited quantity of systems for future warfighter experimentation.

Source: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

BAE Systems, Dassault Await UAS Requirement

Jun 1, 2011

By Robert Wall
Warton, England

One of the flagship programs underpinning the ambitious Franco-British effort to establish a 50-year strategic partnership in national security is several steps closer to being clarified.

France and the U.K. have committed to jointly address their medium-, long-endurance unmanned aircraft (MALE) requirement under the new defense agreement that was formulated in November 2010. But much of the program’s success will hinge on devising combined requirements and a cohesive acquisition strategy. Progress on both fronts is being made, and a definitive shape is likely in the next few months.

The French defense procurement agency, DGA, has already dispatched a cadre to Abbey Wood, home of the U.K. defense ministry’s defense equipment and support organization, to help run the project. The detailed acquisition strategy is now being defined.

Many industry officials in Europe are eagerly anticipating the outcome, but probably none more so than BAE Systems and Dassault—they have agreed to jointly pursue the program. Others, such as Thales, are still pondering a commitment and EADS Cassidian is mulling over building a proposal featuring its Talarion unmanned aircraft concept.

While BAE Systems and Dassault have agreed on the broad outline, details are closely coupled to the requirements document. Although the two national prime contractors appear strange bedfellows, Ian Fairclough, project director for strategic unmanned aerial systems (UAS) programs at BAE Systems, argues that the two firms offer “complementary capabilities.”

Fairclough suggests that open competition and a sole-source approach to the Franco-British industrial partnership are under consideration; European competition rules could influence the outcome.

Regardless of what course is taken, Fairclough argues, there are benefits to moving quickly beyond just preserving the notional 2015-20 fielding agenda. A prolonged competitive process jeopardizes design engineering skills, which would otherwise be idle during that time.

Detailed program definition between the partners is still being worked out. What is less clear is how specific that document will be and whether it will be sufficient to begin detailed design activity.

One matter still under discussion is whether the system would have to be certified to civil requirements, which would ease operations in civil airspace but add complexity and cost.

Industry also is waiting for word from both governments over their preference for final assembly.

The current plan calls for BAE Systems to be responsible for defining the aircraft and engine selection—turbofans and turboprops are still in the mix—while Dassault would focus on systems integration and testing, Eric Trappier, executive vice president/international at Dassault Aviation, said recently.

The concept would be an evolution of the Mantis flying demonstrator developed by BAE Systems. Many details, though, remain undetermined, including how many air vehicles will be featured in each system.

Another decision revolves around devising an exportable system. The two countries “would like to minimize ITAR content,” Fairclough says of equipment governed by the complex U.S. International Transfer of Arms Regulations.

The air vehicle would be designed to be able to both target and deliver ordnance.

Cost estimates vary for the program. Some put the development/production bill at €1 billion ($1.4 billion), which would be shared equally, although a U.K. defense ministry document cites a £2 billion ($3.2 billion) life-cycle cost for the U.K. alone. That assumes around 20 aircraft, although no number has been set.

For the U.K., the program would take on much of the requirement of the so-called Scavenger UAS requirement, although it remains uncertain whether all aspects would be covered by the Franco-British effort. The U.K.’s UAS document, developed by the defense ministry’s doctrine center, suggests “the U.K. will consider if other complementary components are needed to fully satisfy the U.K. capability requirement.”

Although the program is bilateral, so far, Dassault’s Yves Robins, a counselor to Trappier, says that if the two governments change course, industry would adapt.

Source: AviationWeek

Ruag se prépare à une transaction risquée

Par Jean-Michel Berthoud, swissinfo.ch

12. mai 2011

Le fabricant d’armes suisse et le groupe d’armement américain General Atomics s’apprêtent à vendre conjointement des drones à l’armée de l’air allemande. Des avions, utilisés pour des vols de reconnaissance sans pilote, mais aussi pour des éliminations humaines ciblées en temps de guerre.

L’entreprise Ruag, propriété de la Confédération, veut participer avec le fabricant américain des drones Predator à l’appel d’offres de l’armée allemande. «En cas de vente d’avions de ce type, Ruag prendrait en charge la maintenance, l’entretien, la réparation et la révision des drones», a expliqué à la Radio suisse alémanique Christiane Schneider, directrice de communication de Ruag.

Ruag attend depuis plus de quarante ans d’avoir l’occasion de vendre des dispositifs militaires à l’armée allemande, par l’intermédiaire d’une filiale à Oberpfaffenhofen, en Bavière.

Intervention possible en Afghanistan

Le modèle concerné serait conçu pour la surveillance aérienne allemande. L’engin volant télécommandé, qui peut transporter une charge utile de 1,7 tonnes, peut aussi être équipé d’un large spectre d’armes, comme des missiles air-sol ou des bombes guidées. Les drones de ce type, désignés actuellement par le terme MQ-9 Reaper, sont engagés en Afghanistan et dans la zone limitrophe pakistanaise par les forces aériennes américaines dans le cadre de la guerre contre les Talibans et Al-Qaïda.

Christiane Schneider ajoute que «nous partons du principe qu’il s’agit de drones de reconnaissance. Fondamentalement, tout drone peut être armé, comme c’est le cas pour les voitures. Car on peut aussi faire de chaque voiture une arme.»

Le fait est que les drones pourraient aussi être un jour utilisés en Afghanistan, l’armée allemande étant engagée dans ce conflit.

Le mandat décisif de l’ONU

Une telle joint-venture est-elle légale en regard de la législation suisse? swissinfo.ch a posé la question à Simon Plüss, responsable des exportations suisses de matériel de guerre au sein du Secrétariat d’État à l’économie (seco). Selon lui, il s’agit d’abord de déterminer s’il s’agit de matériel de guerre ou non.

«A ma connaissance, il s’agit de travaux d’entretien que Ruag devrait effectuer sur des drones livrés à l’armée allemande par les États-Unis, explique-t-il. Ces travaux pourraient entrer dans la catégorie du matériel de guerre, car certains services sont aussi visés par la loi. Autre question: certains travaux seront-ils faits en Suisse et les drones ensuite renvoyés en Allemagne?»

Mais Simon Plüss estime que ces questions restent encore du domaine de la spéculation. «Je ne sais pas exactement comment se déroulera la transaction, avoue-t-il. Le moment venu, s’il s’avère qu’il s’agit bien de matériel de guerre, il faudra examiner si les critères de la loi concernant le matériel de guerre en cas d’exportation sont bien remplis.»

En ce qui concerne les conflits civils ou internationaux, le gouvernement suisse a développé une pratique permettant l’exportation de matériel de guerre si le pays acheteur participe à une intervention reposant sur un mandat de l’ONU ou si un accord intervient entre la Suisse et le pays destinataire sur l’utilisation du matériel. Pour Simon Plüss, l’autorisation pourrait être accordée dans ce cas si l’utilisation en Afghanistan se fait dans le cadre du mandat de l’ONU.

«Une politique de neutralité douteuse»

Mais l’expert en droit international Rainer J. Schweizer, de l’université de St-Gall, exprime des doutes, notamment en raison du fait que Ruag appartient à 100% à la Confédération. Répondant aux questions de la Radio suisse alémanique, il estime que des travaux de maintenance de Ruag sur les drones «pourraient finalement conduire à un soutien logistique dans un conflit armé comme celui qui se déroule en Afghanistan. Or, si l’OTAN a reçu un mandat de l’ONU pour de telles actions, ce n’est pas le cas de la Suisse, qui a choisi une voie de prudence conforme à sa politique de neutralité et qui se concentre sur des actions de maintien de la paix.»

Au seco, Simon Plüss estime que la compatibilité avec la neutralité devra être jugée dans le cas concret de l’entretien des drones. Mais il estime que «la transaction n’est pas exclue. On saura si elle respecte toutes les conditions pour être autorisée seulement lorsqu’une demande concrète nous est adressée. Pour le moment, nous n’en savons rien.»

Le Vert Josef Lang, spécialiste des questions de sécurité, souligne pour sa part que «la transaction est politiquement très risquée. Ruag est une entreprise fédérale. La Suisse serait de ce fait au moins indirectement impliquée dans la guerre en Afghanistan. Ce serait une erreur d’autant plus grave que la Suisse pourrait prochainement jouer un rôle dans la pacification de l’Afghanistan.»

«S’il était dans l’intention de la Suisse de jouer un tel rôle, il faudra probablement la prendre en compte lors de la décision, admet Simon Plüss. Mais je n’ai aucune indication que quelque chose de tel soit prévu.»

«Dans le cadre légal»

Chez Ruag, on est bien conscient qu’un contrat concernant les drones pose des questions. «Mais nous agissons strictement dans le cadre légal». Jusqu’à l’appel d’offre du gouvernement allemand, il pourrait s’écouler encore une période de jusqu’à deux ans, selon l’entreprise fédérale.

Parlant des troubles en Afrique du Nord et des conflits au Proche-Orient, le patron de l’entreprise Lukas Braunschweiler avait dit fin mars, lors de la dernière conférence de presse annuelle à Zurich-Oerlikon, que Ruag s’en tenait toujours au «sévère régime d’exportation dicté par le droit suisse». Il a affirmé que son entreprise était «consciente de ses responsabilités». La part de marché de Ruag dans les régions d’Amérique du Sud, du Proche-Orient et d’Afrique ne serait que de 2%. Aucun «projet critique» n’a dû être retiré jusqu’à maintenant.
Jean-Michel Berthoud, swissinfo.ch

GA-ASI and CAE Partner to Meet Canadian ISTAR and Strike Needs With Offer of Predator B UAS

Teaming to Pursue Canada’s Joint UAV Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) Program

SAN DIEGO and MONTREAL, CANADA – 25 May 2011 – General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), a leading manufacturer of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), tactical reconnaissance radars, and surveillance systems, and CAE today announced that the companies have signed an exclusive teaming agreement to offer the Predator® B UAS to meet Canada’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) needs.

“GA-ASI’s establishment of a formal partnership with CAE signifies a firm commitment by both companies to help Canada strengthen its security and sovereignty both at home and abroad,” said Frank Pace, president, Aircraft Systems Group, GA-ASI.  “CAE’s expertise in the operation and maintenance of large fleets of manned aircraft, modelling and simulation technologies, and in-service support solutions is well matched by GA-ASI’s proficiency in the design, development, production, and operational support of proven, affordable, and responsive unmanned aircraft systems with integrated reconnaissance payloads.”

Under the program presently referred to as the JUSTAS program, the Canadian Government will establish a requirement to field and support interoperable, network-enabled UASs to provide ISTAR and all-weather precision-strike capabilities in support of its operations worldwide.  GA-ASI and CAE will jointly compete for this program, with GA-ASI serving as the prime contractor supporting a U.S. Foreign Military Sale (FMS) procurement.  The teaming arrangement between GA-ASI and CAE is designed to offer the best combination of experience and proven capability to meet program and Canadian-specific requirements while reducing technical, cost, and schedule risks.

As the first-tier Canadian subcontractor, CAE would have overall responsibility for a comprehensive In-Service Support (ISS) solution, including operator and mission training systems; integration with Canada’s existing Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) infrastructure; systems engineering support; and lifecycle and integrated logistics support services.  CAE would also have responsibility for assembling a pan-Canadian team of companies to develop and support any Canadian-specific requirements and content for Canada’s national ISTAR capabilities.

“Just as unmanned systems are transforming today’s military operations, CAE has transformed itself in recent years as much more than a flight simulation company,” said Martin Gagne, CAE’s group president, Military Products, Training and Services.  “Our experience and expertise in operational and in-service support, as well as modelling and simulation for both manned and unmanned systems, makes CAE the ideal Canadian partner for GA-ASI, and well-positioned to support the Canadian Government as our country acquires a critical UAS capability.”

Featuring an extensive payload capacity (850 lb/385 kg internally, 3,000 lb/1360 kg externally), the multi-mission Predator B is a long-endurance, medium-high-altitude UAS that can be used for surveillance, military reconnaissance, and targeting missions. The aircraft has a maximum gross takeoff weight of 10,500 lb/4763 kg, is powered by a Honeywell turboprop engine, has a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet/15240 meters, and can stay aloft for up to 30 hours.  Currently operational as MQ-9 Reaper with the U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force and as MQ-9 with the Italian Air Force, Predator B provides unparalleled close air support and persistent situational awareness to coalition forces, demonstrating proven NATO interoperability.