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Canadian Forces Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle  —  the CU-163 Altair

CU-163 Altair on the tarmac at Goose Bay ‘A Borrower is never seen ... and very good at climbing!’  –  the CF’s Altair for Hire
Altair's ground-operator's station Between 22 August and 31 August 2004, the CFEC (Canadian Forces Experimentation Centre) will test a single CU-163 Altair UAV from CFB Goose Bay.* Despite its being given a CF designation and serial number (163301),  the Altair was not purchased by DND. Instead this aircraft  (as with I-GNAT before it ) is on short-term lease from its US manufacturer, General Atomics - the company having announced being awarded a DND contract in February of 2004.

CU-163 electro-optical infrared sensor turret Note belly radome, nose imager turret, and satellite uplink above ALIX “looks another way; Alas and well a day!”
These CFEC tests are part of ALIX – the Atlantic Littoral ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Recon- naissance) Experiment’. Three different scenarios will be tested: a recce in support of  EX Narwhal in Nunavut, a maritime surveillance and targeting mission in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (followed by an overflight of CFB Gagetown where the Altair will operate alongside the Silver Fox mini-UAV), then a final ISR mission over the Grand Banks.**

View from below showing teardrop radome shape - note degree of wing deflection Gawky but purposeful - the CU-163 Altair on takeoff Altair’s involvement in ALIX is DND’s chance to ‘kick the tires’ of a MALE (or medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAV with little risk. ALIX is testing for holes in ISR which could hamper any CF “network-enabled operations”.

CU-163 on approach emphasizing high-aspect-ratio wing, Y-tail, and pusher propellor

* The UAV is fitted with a multi-mode search radar (under the centre section) and an electro-optical/IR imager (in the 360° turret under its nose). After launch, control of the Altair and its sensors will be passed to a remote-operations centre in Ottawa through a satellite uplink.
** This is described by DND as a “maritime surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting mission” which illustrates a key limitation to patrol UAVs. If a CU-163 on a routine patrol were to identify a threat, who exactly is its targeting data passed to? Had such a mission been flown by a CP-140 Aurora, the manned aircraft could mount an attack if necessary. UAVs are more security camera than guards on watchtowers.