Lockheed Martin Debuts Desert Hawk 3.1 at DSEI
LONDON — Lockheed Martin unveiled a new modification kit for its Desert Hawk drone, known as version 3.1, at the Defence and Security Equipment International conference Sept. 17.
The kit effectively turns an existing Desert Hawk 3 into a Desert Hawk 4 — a new configuration the company introduced in May — said Andy Horler, the business development lead for Lockheed Martin’s unmanned systems portfolio in the United Kingdom.
“It offers all the same benefits as the Desert Hawk 4 but in a modular kit form so you can mix and match … the capabilities,” he said during a media briefing. “We can offer that now as an upgrade to our existing customers.”
The Desert Hawk 3.1 offers significant upgrades over its predecessor, Horler said. Its endurance has been raised from 60 to 90 minutes on the Desert Hawk 3 to 2.5 hours on the new configuration, he noted.
Additionally, it is an all-weather system that is waterproofed, something that is a “key thing for the U.K.” military, he said.
The system’s payload capability has also improved. “The Desert Hawk 3 had separate payloads; you had a low-light camera, you had a normal electro-optic camera and then you had an infrared,” he said. “Now we have an integrated electro-optic, infrared and laser illuminator payload.”
There have been modifications to its launching and landing mechanisms as well, he said. The system’s thrust capability has doubled making for easier launches. The Desert Hawk 3.1 offers a new “deep stall” landing configuration.
“Before the aircraft used to come in and control crash almost. … It would glide in and then land on the floor and then it would break up to absorb the energy,” Horler said. “That’s changed and now we offer a deep stall landing configuration, so what that means is it literally drops out of the sky like a stone and so it can land very accurately within a couple meters accuracy and it remains intact.”
The system is available now and is being evaluated by a number of customers, he said.
Lockheed also announced that it had finalized a contract with the U.K. Ministry of Defence for a six-year contract providing the organization with support for its fleet of Desert Hawk 3 systems as well as introducing a series of software upgrades.
The first set of upgrades was a digital data link that recently reached full operational capability, Horler said.
The system has been in the U.K. MoD’s fleet since 2005 and was fielded as an urgent operational requirement. Desert Hawk 3 — which weighs eight pounds — has flown more than 30,000 hours with the organization. It has been used for a number of missions including situational awareness, counter improvised explosive device operations, battle damage assessment, route reconnaissance and threat detection, Lockheed Martin materials said.
While the U.K. is evaluating the Desert Hawk 3.1 system, it is not part of the six-year support and upgrade contract, Horler said.
Lockheed has U.S. customers for its Desert Hawk system, but company representatives would not disclose specific military users.