COLOGNE, Germany — UMS Skeldar, a joint venture of the UMS Aero Group and Saab, has acquired German engine manufacturer Hirth with an eye toward the market for naval, rotary-wing drones.

The two companies have previously partnered on the V-200 drone, which runs on a heavy-fuel engine. The new acquisition is designed to insource the heavy-fuel capability, seen by CEO Axel Cavalli-Bjorkman as key to wining pending tenders worldwide.

The engine type, especially producing it in small sizes, is “one of the strongest selling points that we have,” he said in an interview.

Heavy fuel is the standard fuel for many military applications. It is considered more reliable and less dangerous to store and handle than gasoline a key consideration for use on ships.

The company’s flagship V-200 aircraft is designed for operation from ships. Equipped with an automatic take-off and launch feature, its missions include surveillance, target acquisition and electronic warfare.

“As a market leader in innovative 2-stroke engine products and technologies, the Hirth business includes research, development and manufacturing from its site at Benningen, near Stuttgart, Germany, with global sales co-ordinated from Vienna, Austria,” a statement on the acquisition reads. “Hirth has manufactured and sold more than one million engines since it was established and has been a pioneer of the 2-stroke engine for 60 years, with a track record of 30 years in the UAV sector.”

The move comes as several NATO countries and their respective navies are in the market for shipborne rotary-drone systems. Potential customers include Germany, Canada and Australia, said Cavalli-Bjorkman.

“The market regarding defense naval applications has matured during the last two years,” he said. “This where we see the growth. Naval forces around world have a tangible demand for these kinds of unmanned systems.”

UMS Skeldar has one production site in Möhlin, Switzerland, and one in Linköping, Sweden. The company employs roughly 35 people in each location.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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