Civilian contractors from Insitu launch a ScanEagle UAV from the US Navy dock landing ship Gunston Hall. (US Navy)
PARIS — Boeing has secured Britain’s Royal Navy as the latest customer for its ScanEagle unmanned air vehicle. The British want the machine to improve detection of fast-moving targets like the high speed attack craft operated by the Iranians.
The British inked a deal with Boeing Defence UK last week for a contractor-owned, contractor-operated service onboard a small number of Royal Navy warships and Royal Fleet Auxiliary support vessels, the Defence Ministry has confirmed.
The ScanEagle service is an urgent operational requirement normally paid for from a special Treasury reserve fund. The value of the deal is unknown.
A spokesman for the MoD said they had been in negotiations with a contractor to meet the requirement and would make an announcement soon.
A contract bidders notice issued by the MoD this year said the service would end March 2015. There are options to extend beyond that date.
The bidders notice said they wanted a system that could loiter for up to eight hours at an operating range of up to 40 kilometers and be able to track fast-moving targets.
The UAV could be a first line of defense against the threat posed by high speed swarming attack craft used by the Iranian military or be used in an anti-piracy role.
The British MoD has already conducted sea trials with the ScanEagle for demonstration purposes.
The British originally sought a contractor to meet the requirement last year, but abandoned the contest saying none of the bidders had met requirements. The requirements were modified and competition reopened.
Thales UK, Lockheed Martin, QinetiQ and EADS Cassidian were also invited to bid.
Cassidian, a leading contender the first time around with the AAI Aerosonde machine, did not bid in the latest competition. It is not known who else submitted proposals.
The US, Dutch and other navies already operate the Boeing Insitu developed ScanEagle machines. ■
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