FrontLine Notebook
CF to Experiment with UAVs off Atlantic and Arctic Coasts

© 2004 FrontLine Defence (Vol 1, No 1)

General Atomics Aero­nautical Systems, Inc., manufacturers of unmanned aircraft surveillance systems, was awarded a Canadian Forces (CF) contract to deploy its ALTAIR unmanned aircraft, a Predator B variant, in support of the Atlantic Littoral Intelligence, Surveillance, Recon­naissance Experiment (ALIX). ALTAIR will be integrated with a multi-mode maritime radar as well as an electro-optical, infrared camera for littoral and maritime surveillance off Canada’s east coast. The deployment will commence in August and involve beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) operation of the aircraft and distribution of radar and video imagery to Canadian land, air and maritime forces.

The surface search radar and camera video imagery will be passed to remote video terminals. Acquisition and exploitation of payload data by maritime, air and ground forces will elevate situational awareness throughout the Canadian Forces. The deployment will conclude in September.

This is the first time ALTAIR has been deployed to Canada, but it is not the only time the company has provided systems to the CF. During a G-8 Meeting of all Heads of State held in Kananaskis, Alberta in 2002, GA-ASI provided surveillance using its IGNAT aircraft which provided real-time intelligence information in support of the Canadian security efforts. The Canadian Army also integrated the IGNAT unmanned aircraft into a field training exercise in Suffield, Alberta, called Robust Ram. IGNAT acquired and transmitted intelligence, surveillance, targeting acquisition and reconnaissance information into brigade headquarters where it was combined with other intelligence products.

The U.S. Air Force began operating Predator in combat areas over Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans in 1995. Predator transmits surveillance and targeting information via satellite to command centers in-theater, RVTs in the field, receive-only terminals in the Pentagon and other locations throughout the world. This reliable and immediate picture of the battlefield can be evaluated by officials for quick ­decision-making. 

The U.S. Navy has recently completed a Predator deployment to Alaska in which the aircraft was operated in severe weather conditions. The deployment was in support of U.S. Coast Guard operations. Real-time video provided by U.S. Navy Predators was relayed to Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, DC where senior officials were able to observe cutter operations. Additional deployments are planned which include Predator B integrated with a surface search radar. This deployment will be conducted in June 2004 in Alaska. The U.S. government has also used the IGNAT, Predator and Predator B aircraft systems for patrol of the U.S.-Mexico border. 

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