Under the Future Tactical Uncrewed Air System (FUTAS) programme, the RN has selected the Schiebel S-100 Camcopter which will operate in the intelligence-gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance role, initially from warships based in the Persian Gulf.
The Rotary Wing Uncrewed Air System (RWUAS) can provide real-time imagery and radar data back to a parent ship and will become operational in mid-2024, with HMS Lancaster likely to be the first vessel to carry the aircraft. Peregrine will fly in conjunction with the Wildcat helicopter but its data can be fed directly into the ship’s combat management system, (unlike the Wildcat which lacks a TDL), aiding situational awareness and rapid decision-making.
The standard S-100 can be launched rapidly, has a 6-hour endurance, a top speed of around 120 knots and a range of around 180 km (97nm), although this varies depending on the payload.
Thales is the prime contractor and systems integrator, providing their I-Master radar, a compact, lightweight airborne surveillance radar that offers ultra-fine Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery, Maritime Moving Target Indication (MMTI) and Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI) modes. I-Master was first integrated with the S-100 in 2013 is capable of detecting small and slow-moving targets. Thales says the radar can detect ships at up to 100km, vehicles at 35km and infantry movement at 15km. (The I-Master radar can be seen in the main image above as the main payload carried below the aircraft. The EO camera is mounted in the nose.) Peregrine will also have an Automatic Identification System (AIS) and the CarteNav AIMS Mission System for multi-sensor integration, planning, collection and information dissemination.
The contract with Thales is initially for 2 years with an option to extend. This very cautious approach will allow the RN to learn lessons from RWUAS operations that will inform decisions around the Future Maritime Aviation Force programme. The Austrian-made Schibel S-100 is a very mature platform that has been in service with civilian and military users since 2005. Accumulating more than 100,000 operating hours, it has performed more than 2,000 deck launches and recoveries from ships including in challenging winds and sea states.
As we have previously observed, is hard to understand why the RN did not grasp the opportunity to bring this capability into service years ago as it dramatically extends the area that a single warship can monitor at a fraction of the cost of launching a crewed helicopter. It is also a lot less unwieldy than the Scan Eagle UAS the RN experimented with between 2014-17.
The aircraft has been named after HMS Peregrine, the former Royal Naval Air Station Ford in West Sussex. The air station was the Fleet Air Arm’s test and development centre in the early years of carrier-borne jet aircraft but was closed in 1959 and is now the site of an open prison. There is another link to naval image gathering as HMS Peregrine was also home for many years of the RN School of Photography and the ‘Peregrine trophy’ is also the name of the annual RN photographic awards.
Good to see UAV Schibel S-100 is now on trial with RN.
Even though the article states “hard to understand why the RN did not grasp the opportunity to bring this low-cost capability into service years ago“, it is NOT only RN, but many other agencies in the world just trialed S-100, but not jumped into mass production. For example, French navy did NOT select S-100 for their POM patrol vessel, although it was originally considered as the first choice.
It looks like S-100 has some shortfalls. But, I am not sure if it is critical.
Trial is very important. If the “(un-dicslosed) shortfall” can be largely mitigated by some operational tactics, then RN will go with it. If not, RN will select other ones, 2 years later.
Worth noting that the USN is actually mothballing a load of the far more capable MQ-8C (bsed on the Longranger helo)….and has already mothballed all of the MQ-8B Firescout…
Those are still large units and take a lot of support and expensive for what they deliver. If your after eyes up high then this solution is affordable and gets results that all RC Fleet units could benefit by. Small support team which the River OPV can easily accommodate with all equipment in a small container.
Should have purchased this some time back.
Lets hope their Lordships like the results and go for it long term as it would be a major boost to all units and not cost a fortune.
I trust a new FAA Squadron will be formed to operate the flights embarked onboard the Ships of the fleet. This I would say gives them a edge.
There havent been ‘lords of the admiralty’ ( except 1SL term who’s really Chief of Naval Staff) for many many years now.
Last politician ( who wasnt a ‘lord’ either) who was called 1st Lord of Admiralty was 1931
Are any of these relevant? Are you still living in 1931?
I said it wasnt relevant, ask Angus why he still refers to ‘lordships’
what other people said is beside the point.
so why did you post it? arrogant, vanity, or loneliness?
A psychologist now are you ? keep calm and carry on.
Too tough to answer a direct question? And immediately go into a defensive mode?
Ha, oh the Irony, a Duke who Lords it over everyone on here ! anyway stick around, it’s a right laugh. Cheers, Phil currently in Swansea.
They have been referred by that for many a year and still are in the Fleet.it refers to those at top. Which uniform did you wear?
Chinese fifth-column uniform most likely?
He’s a Duke So probably got a big hat, boots and a High Horse ! what else would he wear ? ha ha.
Interesting, they’re getting rid of the 8C too? I thought they were pretty decent, in concept at least- have they given a reason?
I wondered about that too, because I also thought they seemed excellent in concept. They aren’t quite getting rid of all of them. They are keeping 10 and mothballing the rest (I think there are 28 being mothballed). Nevertheless that’s a bit of an indictment.
Several possibilities crossed my mind.
The number being mothballed rang a bell. The original outlay for the purchase of 38 Fire Scouts included 28 for Special Forces and only 10 for the regular Navy. Perhaps it’s the Special Forces capability that’s not up to snuff.
They were looking to add these to the LCS fleet, and they aren’t going to have as big a fleet of those any more. As far as I can tell, they are only going to be used on the Independence class for now on an MCM mission (there’s a mine detection pod for the Fire Scouts). There was a call to make the Freedom class more lethal, and I wonder if that’s an issue for the Fire Scout. Whether the extras will be brought out of mothballs when the Constellation class come on line, I don’t know.
The USN were already looking for replacements even before the C’s first operational deployment. There was an article two years ago in Flight Global about the Navy casting around for replacements for the MH-60R/S Seahawks and MQ-8Cs Fire Scouts. It suggested that these would reach the end of their useful life in the 2030s. It occurred to me that given the speed drone technology is improving, the Fire Scouts might not even last that long. It’s based on the same helicopter as the model B that first flew in the 90’s and many of the avionics are tweaked versions of a system from the noughties.
Maybe if they can bring on a new generation of 3-ton UAVs in time for the frigates (2026 onwards), they might not need quite as many Fire Scouts right now and can repurpose the operating budget to bring on the next generation. Leonardo claimed their attempts at automating the Solo were limited because it wasn’t a purpose built drone, which is why they started on the Proteus RUAV. Perhaps a purpose built drone with a greater emphasis on lethality might float the US Navy’s boat better than the Fire Scout C conversion.
All this is speculation on my part. I really rate the Fire Scout and have great hopes for Proteus.
French have their own RUAS on the way in the form of the Airbus VSR700….so they purchased French instead…VSR700 also operates with diesel as the fuel, a really important advantage at sea, particularly with the new generation of RHIB engines running on diesel. Not having to carry around kerosene or petrol is a good thing at sea…
Interestingly the S-100 can use diesel as well if the Heavy Fuel engine is selected…hopfully the RN will go down that route. Makes life a lot easier on River Class (not so much on larger ships with Wildcat or Merlin though..).
I thought rivers were set up to refuel a cab?
Being able to carry Martlet could be useful as well, great news ?
I’d be surprised if it can carry Martlet, the radar and camera as well as a sensible fuel load. By bet is the RN will use them purely as a recon asset. If Martlets are needed Wildcat will be called up.
It’s certainly capable of mounting LMM (Martlet), whether RN takes that option is open to question. If we equip our River class B2s with this there might be rationale for LMM as they have no helo of their own. For their constabulary/patrol roles S-100 will be invaluable.
Problem is if it carried weapons can’t carry ISTAR payload – also 2 Martlet is not much good for anything apart from a RIB or USV. ISTAR payload gives the ship a massively increased combat picture and can target the ship’s and Wildcat’s weapons over the horizon (e.g. NSM).
It still carry’s the EO/IR sensor turret in glorious 4k if Martlet is onboard and the laser designation necessary. It won’t be carrying the i-Master though…
Annoyingly Schiebel are about to launch a new, scaled up version called the S-300…which could carry sensor turret, comms rebroadcast, i-Master and 2 Martlet easily…pity the RN haven’t gone for this one with the heavy fuel engine…
Here’s the S-300 in comparison to the S-100
A few hand grenades or even a GPMG would come in handy.
Wikipedia says the Schiebel S-100 can carry two Martlets, though as ATH observes, whether these can be carried in addition to the surveillance equipment is an issue.
Some of the entities on the list of existing users are of interest, they include the Chinese Navy (PLAN), & HM Coastguard.
Here’s an S-100 with 2 LMM flying…
CAMCOPTER official brochure says “Typical payload 50 kg”
I-Master radar weighs 30 kg
LMM missile (itself) weighs 13 kg, and launcher etc is needed. Guess 2 LMM with its launcher assembly will weigh more than 30 kg.
In addition, CAMPCOPTER may carry FLIR system.
Just in case you need these numbers…
Although its not mentioned here, the S-100 has already mounted and fired 2 x Martlet in tests….
It’s a good initial capability, but the RN’s focus must remain on larger RUAS, particularly systems that can assist with ASW.
RN tested sonobuoy data relaying via the S-100 at REPMUS last year, so I think they have some ASW capability in mind even for the small platform.
If you have a set of 2 )typical set up) you could fly a pair of them one with missiles and one to do radar. One to find the targets and one to take them out.
Shieble S-100 brochure says, “typical payload 50 ks”.
Official website says, I-MASTER radar weighs 30 kg
Wiki says LMM weigh 13 kg each (only missile), so with its launcher and control wiring, 2 LMM might weigh nearly 30 kg.
In addition, S-100 is supposed to carry FLIR/EOS turret.
I think it is VERY important not to put many things on this small system.
You fly 2 one with missiles one with radar 🙂
Thanks, was tricky getting a sense of scale fromt he photos in the article
Thanks. I thought it was needed.
Wonder how many s100 the RN gets for its £20m?
I hope it is 8-10 sets as a set of 2 with a ground station is supposed to be around 2 million. If that will be the case we will see. Even 5 sets would be great especially if we give them to the rivers. Else 20 million seems very expensive.
1 system only, Australia bought 40 for around $1 billion ($24m each). I-MASTER SAR, datalink to combat system will cost the money – the platform is the least of it. More may come if they are successful. Have advantage of being small enough to fit in a container for PODs system, if needed.
Thats the price for a ’30 yr program’, maybe includes upgrades and maintenance.
No way its has almost the same hardware cost as standard UH-60 ‘fly away’
Look at the costs for the Thai programme. First two Camcopters $19.4m; second two $18.3m. It all depends on the extras. We are contracting for an extensible two year capability, not just the Camcopters, so the costs won’t be directly comparable anyway.
Instead ask, how many would you contract for, for 24/7 coverage for one ship plus training? Then ask, would the RN pay for any more sets than that without yet more testing?
This is what the US Army basic UH-60M new build costs
https://www.shephardmedia.com/news/defence-helicopter/us-army-and-sikorsky-agree-new-uh-60-black-hawk-multiyear-deal/$2.3 bill for 120 machines is almost $20 mill each. Often the engines are the most expensive part. of course thats a long production line history as well.
I would be very surprised if these little UAVs cost more than $5 mill each, fully equipped.
maybe the UK is doing it under a PPP , the most expensive way as the cost of the capital is included
I doubt they have even bought them, any more than they initially bought the B1 Rivers or the Points. there’s probably an option to buy later.
The line ” fraction of the cost of a crewed helicopter” is almost a throw away but i have never seen a rigorous apples and apples cost comparison . Relative to a Merlin and/or Wildcat maybe so but my experience with operating a light off the shelf commercial helicopter in the grey funnel line as a crewed enterprise indicates otherwise definitely. We never up-systemed the LUH to take good advantage of it. Certainly the more available costs of the USN Firescout program are eye watering and although it is tempting to guess i have no good idea how worthwhile the system is capability v/v attrition etc. The available project costs of S 100 indicate it is a costly platform in terms of airframe performance but that leaves out operational capability, deck performance, people costs etc because good data is not available. Unproven assumption abounds. I hope that we can soon put some granularity into true cost of uncrewed . And certainly a trials program is well justified.
They always need someone on ship trained and actually controlling the drone chopper.
But the RN likes more desk jobs , even on ships , but onshore is best of all. Maybe thats where its heading with the ship just being a relay to the ‘console jockeys’ in some HQ.
Directing a mission via long range data link may be possible but actually flying a UAV is not. The time lag in getting data to the operator and commands back is just too long. In the future the use of low orbit coms constellations may help or AI enabled auto pilots. But today you need a controller close by.
UAVs in Afghanistan and Iraq were controlled from Nevada and other places.
During the mission they were, but I believe that for take off and landing they were controlled by an on sight team. One of the stated advantages of the RAF’s new Protector drones is auto T/O and Landing. This capability is vastly easier to develop for a large fixed wing drone as opposed to landing a small helicopter on a moving ship in a big seaway.
Yes. The ship itself is the obvious place to control it as it can move too. Plus it would remain under the direct command of the ships captain. The desk jockeys in Naval HQ was just a bit of ribbing
Because it’s not an apples to apple comparison? How do you compare the 3 tonne, twin engined Wildcat with a small UAS with a max payload of 50kg ? There is no way the S100 requires a “flight” of the same numbers of personnel, it is cheaper to acquire and cheaper to run. It is obviously not capable of doing all the things a 3 tonne twin engined crewed Helo can do, but then it’s not supposed to, so it’s more of a “grapefruit to watermelon” comparison ??? We have been trailing this capability for about a decade, so I presume somewhere there have been arguments about funding upgrades to Merlin and Wildcat versus buying a ‘fleet’ of UAS, because as we know, it always comes down to searching down the back of the sofa for pennies…..
I suspect that we may be in agreement. My point is that the cost benefit comparison between large and crewed embarked rotary system and a relatively light, uncrewed system is presently not well informed by objective and comprehensive test and ownership data. Further, the assumption (if it is such) that the uncrewed system is less costly then I believe we need to see that teased out a little before accepting it as an accurate response to the bean-counters’ prayer. Hopefully Peregrine will shed some light on the issue(s).
I see the Schiebel are offering the concept of a much larger S-300. And so it goes on.
I think that is where you are confusing me a little bit. What do we need to tease out in more detail exactly? We have been testing UAS on and off for over a decade. Our allies such as USN and French Navy, plus others have trialled / used everything from an uncrewed Bell LongRanger (Firescout) to the S100 itself. Couldn’t they hand over tonnes of unclassified data (and maybe some,confidential data too). We already know exactly what it costs to run a Merlin or a Wildcat based ships flight. So I am not sure exactly what else there is left to test from an economics perspective? From an operational perspective, apart from flight deck ops, all other aspects of use can be simulated ashore, and it should be easy to figure out the optimal crew levels required e.g. does a single operator pull a 6 hr shift in control of the S100…. Things like that?
If we want to also use the heavy BAe-Malloy cargo UAS as a Stingray delivery mechanism, and don’t forget Project Proteus, the award of a $60 million design contract to Leonardo for a 3 tonne class UAS for ASW, someone somewhere better be doing a whole lot of preparation, doctrine and conops work! 🙂
I think understanding these things is what the Peregrine is about isnt it? I can only go on what i read in open source but i dont know that any blue water navy is operating a naval UAS as a mature capability in a defined threat environment. There are lots of claims by mostly industry. And Fire Scouts MQ 8c is getting close to limited operating release with accumulating experience and OT and E . The S-100 seems well proven with lots of operators but i have no good idea doing what except probably fairweather recce /survey work which is what it was designed for. The naval operator will want whatever system is embarked to work in most weather, all the time and absolutely reliably. And i dont think we are there yet. Its a fascinating field . We have at one end the S-100 developed as the smallest possible unit able to do a viable job with the small sensors coming onto the market. Then at the other end we have the MQ-8c and VSR 700 approach which started with a crewed airframe and commenced development by removing the crew. The larger S-300 (concept) is closing the size and performance gap between the two approaches. I have a sneaking suspicion that operating principles, person overheads including costs are going to work out to be about the same size for size for a given capability- just my guess but it seems to be trending that way. And i do worry a little about the signature of the UAS. I just have not seen anything about that.
There is a lot to learn (at sea). I know the RN will do the right sums and trial the right questions. I am looking forward to the results.
Many excellent points – thank you!
The Malloy T-650 has the payload capacity, if not the range and endurance to compete with the Schibel S-100. I suspect the Navy would prefer a battery powered UAS but until the laws of physics are twisted enough to get the same energy storage in a battery as in Av-gas it looks like Schibel have the advantage.
There is a version of the S-100 that has a Wankel engine that uses jet fuel. My guess is this is what the RN will specify rather than the gas engine.
Malloy T-650 is a cargo drone, the Schibel S-100 is being used for surveillance for which you need range and endurance.
Difference roles require different drones.
On the subject of maritime reconnaissance; what are the implications of the Chinese recon balloon and likely other assets over the USA? They are cheap and expendable yet can give 24/7 cover of warships and task forces at sea or in harbour. Worrying stuff if you ask me. I hope UK is taking note.
Satellites already cover oceans and harbours and can carry very high resolution cameras, plus some can be steered to watch certain areas while others ‘cover everything’
What balloons seem to be doing is picking up lower level weaker signal communications best of all ( which some satellites can do as well)
Balloons can mostly only follow the prevailing higher level winds
Harbours and naval bases can also be photographed from surrounding areas (plus a drone to get up higher) and what ships and when movements recorded.
Are you the expert on All things Great and Small now? So what exactly is the Chinese balloon carrying?
I just noticed. FTUAS here is called Future Tactical UAS, but I think that’s the US Northrop Grumman drone. I think the RN FTUAS project is “Flexible Tactical”.
You’d think that these combined with mobile, ground-launched, precision fires and perhaps some carried Switchblade would make attack helicopters redundant.
It’s the way it is going coupled with better local air defences. You could see an armoured formation of PGM carriers and SPAAG’s. Considering how high tech £1000 drones are now I am surprised nobody has moulded a small drone out of plastic explosive. Such a thing would have more bang than a ‘hand grenade’. You could send these after infantry. Of course there would be counters. But imagine say Afghanistan it would have been better than popping off Javelin at £50k a bang.
I didn’t know you could do that, mould rigid forms from plastic explosive. I don’t suppose it’s stable enough to use in a 3D printer? (Not that I intend or condone … blah blah, blah..)
You would need to stabilize the polymer. I don’t think it would be too problematic.
Interesting article about U.K. UAVs