July 28, 2006:
Canada is so pleased with the Sperwer UAV it has been using for the last three years, that it trying to buy ten from Denmark, which has decided it no longer needs them. France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, Greece and Canada are all now using the French built Sperwer UAV, which is got its first heavy use during Balkan peacekeeping missions in the 1990a.
The Danes demobilized their Sperwar's last year because of management problems (an unfavorable maintenance arrangements, made worse by splitting responsibility between the air force and army). The Canadians are using their Sperwers heavily in Afghanistan, and see an opportunity to get some more at a very cheap rate (a million dollars or less per UAV.) The Canadians are also paying to improve the Sperwer flight control software, to make the UAV more stable when landing under windy conditions. It's often windy in Afghanistan.
The $2.6 million Sperwer LE (Long Endurance) weighs 772 pounds, carries a 110 pound payload, is 12 feet long and has an endurance of 12 hours. Sperwer can operate up to 200 kilometers from its ground control unit. But the Sperwer uses a noisy engine (think lawnmower) and flies low enough to be heard. This has not proved to be a problem, as the people below, if they are Taliban, either start shooting at the UAV, or try to run away. The Canadian troops have come to depend on their Sperwers, and would rather have more of them, than another, newer, UAV. The troops have learned that operator experience is a major factor in UAV success, and much of that would be lost if they switched a new mode. Canada bought five more new Sperwers late last year, in addition to the original six purchased in 2003. Three have been lost to accidents so far.