Denel will provide a Skua high-speed tar-get drone system to support the Brazilian Air Force’s Aerospace Technical Centre and Brazilian company Mectron, in the final testing of the latter’s MAA-1 Piranha infrared-homing short-range air-to-air missile.
The exact scale of the support – for example, how many Skuas will be required – still, it seems, has to be determined so the exact value of the contract is not yet known. Denel will deploy the Skua system to Brazil for the tests. A Skua system normally consists of four to eight of the target drones, a launcher, a mobile ground control station, and ground support equipment.
The Skua drone itself has a performance of Mach 0,86 (Mach 1,00 is the speed of sound) at 10 000 m, a controllable range (line-of-sight) of 200 km, a minimum altitude of 10 m and a maximum altittude of 12 000 m, and an endurance of 85 minutes at 10 000 m and at Mach 0,75.
The drone has an all-composite, low-drag airframe, a wingspan of 3, 57 m and a length of 6,00 m. It has an internal bay which can carry a payload of up to 70 kg, and is fitted with wing hardpoints to carry tow-targets or signature enhancement equipment (for example, radar reflectors, to increase the drone’s radar signature) weighing up to 140 kg.
The Skua’s launcher is ‘zero-length’ (no long launch rail) and includes self-loading and engine-starting facilities.
Intended to simulate high-speed attack aircraft, the Skua is powered by a jet engine. It can either be remote-controlled from the ground station or fly autonomously, following a pre-programmed flight plan. At the end of a flight, the Skua parachutes to the ground, landing in an inverted horizontal attitude on pneumatic landing bags. The entire system is easily deployed by land, sea or air and is in service with several countries.
In Brazil, the Skua will be used to tow infrared targets at high speed for the Piranha; the missiles will not be targeted at the drone itself.
The MAA-1 Piranha is a supersonic dogfight missile, which homes in on heat generated by the target aircraft, both by the engine and by the aerodynamic-friction heating of the airframe as it flies through the air.
Brazil’s first indigenous air-to-air missile, it has a mass of 89 kg, a diameter of just over 15 cm, a length of 2,75 m and wingspan of 66 cm. Reportedly, it has a maximum speed of Mach 3 and a range of at least 10 km.
It is believed that, hitherto, all tests of the Piranha were executed using parachute flare targets deployed by helicopter.
Meanwhile, the Denel group participated in this year’s Latin America Aero and Defence (LAAD) expo-sition, held at the end of April in Rio de Janeiro.
“We had a big stand at this year’s LAAD. It was highly visible and we attracted a lot of interest from delegations from all over South America and, indeed, beyond, and not just from Brazil,” reports Denel spokesman Sam Basch.