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Canadian Forces Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle  —  the CU-161 Sperwer

SAGEM  Sperwer  –  the CF’s ‘Sparrow Hawk’  Tactical  UAV [1]
In August 2003,  DND announced a $33.8M contract with  Quebec- based  Oerlikon-Contraves for four CU-161 Sperwer tactical UAVs (increased later to six) with  2  Ground Control Stations, 1 launcher, 2 ground data terminals, 4 remote video terminals, and 3 simulators, plus 3 generator trailers, training, and support. DND attributes this new purchase to its over-all UAV plan but the choice is somewhat odd since Sperwer was not among the drones involved in the 2002 CFB Suffield trials.  [ See a brief  technical description of  Sperwer.]

Sperwer will provide I-STAR (or Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and  Recon- naissance)  for the International  Stabilization Assistance  Force –  ISAF –  in  Afghanistan. The CF Sperwer detachment arrived in Kabul on 29 Oct. 2003. The CF Sperwer detachment consisted primarily of gunners from E Battery 2 RCHA normally stationed at Petawawa , but also included  attached  Air Force  personnel.

Spare Ware  —  the  Semi-Disposable UAV ?
Prior to being dispatched  to Afghanistan, CF personnel trained both in France – the makers of Sperwer, SAGEM, is a French firm – and at CFB Petawawa. After arriving in Afghanistan, the CU-161s were put through their paces.  In early November,  tests were performed amidst media reports of concerns about the ability of Sperwer to perform at Kabul’s 2000m altitude. The  CU-161’s  performance was judged to be adequate for Kabul.  However, since their deployment to Afghanistan, at least four Sperwer TUAVs have been involved in accidents.[2]

[1] Oerlikon-Contraves of Canada is the local partner for the French manufacturer of  the Sperwer, SAGEM, which has considerable UAV experience including involvement with the on-going development of the Canadair CL-289 along with Bombardier and Dornier of Germany.
[2] • CU161003 (Nov. 2003) ‘hard landing’ or Category A damage when recovery parachute failed to deploy during flight tests. • CU161005 (Jan. 2004) “impacted the terrain” during autopilot recovery training sustaining Category A damage. • CU161002 (March 2004) control lost during launch sequence for an operational mission. Recovery chute failed to inflate, UAV suffered Category B damage. •  CU161004 (June 2004 ) contact lost with UAV, Sperwer recovered in emergency mode but sustained Category C damage when landing in a residential area.

  DND 101A Visual Guide to the Canadian Forces  2005 Edition

  

© Stephen Priestley 2001/2005