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Tue May 28, 2013, 02:49 PM

The Race is On: Manufacturer sets sights on market for armed drones...

The photo above is of a Denel Dynamics' Seeker, which is a tactical reconnaissance UAV that's been around for a long time, and has been used for diverse purposes such as to monitor the South African general election in 1994 and to track rhinoceros poachers in Kruger National Park in 2012. In 2010 the manufacturer unveiled a new light air to ground missile, the Denel Dynamics Impi that is being developed to arm the Seeker 400, the current production version.

Well, looks like the development is going well, as reported by NBC News:

On a sprawling complex just outside Pretoria, South Africa, a government-owned arms manufacturer is preparing to test an armed drone that it hopes to begin selling soon to governments around the world.

The company, Denel Dynamics, says the armed version of the Seeker 400, which will carry two laser-guided missiles, will enable so-called opportunistic targeting at a range of up to about 155 miles.


And according to Peter Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institute, at least 26 countries have surveillance drones of a size or type that have been or could be armed, and roughly 20 countries are trying to either develop or acquire weaponized drones.


The company aims to be among the first suppliers of armed drones to market, if tests of the armed versions of the Seeker 400 -- expected to begin in “a month or two” and last up to six months, according to Ntsihlele -- are successful. South Africa would have to purchase the armed drones first before the company would begin marketing them elsewhere, but if that happens Denel sees opportunities for growth elsewhere, particularly in “Africa and the Middle East,” he said.

Ntsihlele declined to say how much the armed Seeker 400 will cost, but said it will be far cheaper than the Predator and Reaper, the armed drones used for anti-terrorism operations by the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, which cost approximately $20 million and $56.5 million apiece, respectively. And unlike those UAVs, it would not require satellite technology, being controlled instead through “line of sight” communications. That limits its range but makes it potentially available to nations without sophisticated space-based guidance systems.

"opportunistic targeting"....what a lovely euphemism!

Maybe a new interpretation for the lyrics to that song (my favorite version is by the Dead, on the Reckoning album):

Now the race is on and here comes pride up the back stretch,
Heartaches a goin' to the inside,
My Tears are holding back,
Tryin' not to fall.
My Heart's out of the running,
True Love scratched for another's sake,
The race is on and it looks like Heartaches,
And the winner loses all.

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