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THE AIRFORCE - AIRCRAFT - SEEKER 1
 
 

Aircraft Stats:

Powerplant: 1 x 37.7kW Limbach L550E four-cylinder, two-stroke engine
Speed: 185 kph, 115mph mph
Range: 200km, 124miles
Length: 4.5m, 14ft 9in
Span: 7.0m, 11.5ft 11.5in
Empty Weight: 180kg, 397lb
Max T/O Weight: 280kg, 617lb
Period of Service: 15 years

Weapons:
None specified

Squadrons:
None specified

Attrition:
2 incidents recorded

Seeker 1

Status: Retired
Manufacturer: Kentron
Country of Manufacture: South Africa
Role: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
 
Description:

The Seeker 1 is a Low-Speed Remotely Piloted Aircraft (LS-RPA) manufactured by Denel / Kentron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for real-time day/night aerial surveillance and reconnaissance.

The Seeker UAV was used to conduct real-time, day and night surveillance in all threat environments, during hostilities these aircraft were used with great success where the risk of losing a manned aircraft (e.g. Mirage IIIRZ) and human life due to the nature of opposing force air defence system threats (medium and high).

Background

The South African Air Force' 10 Squadron (AFB Potchefstroom)  utilized the ‘Gharra' UAV (interim system) System during the early 1980's, this system also saw operational service during numerous operations in the region.  The last utilization of the ‘Gharra' UAV was during 1987/8 when it was utilized to conduct surveillance operations in South Eastern Angola during Operation Modular/Hooper.  A requirement for a new UAV was registered in 1982 and the first production systems were delivered for evaluation in 1986, and officially entered service in 1991, and since introduction into service, underdone upgrades.

The original Seeker 1 system utilized an air vehicle system known as Seeker 2D (entered service 1985) and later an improved version known as Seeker 2E was introduced in 1995.  All SAAF Seeker 2D's were upgraded to Seeker 2E models.  The upgrade entailed modifying the wings with trailing-edge flaps, integral wing fuel tanks; digitally controlled, fuel injection Limbach two-stroke engine; and increased operating ceiling, payload and endurance.

The SAAF’s UAV’s were deployed for a period of one month during the 1987/88 operations in South eastern Angola. They were operated from Mavinga, a UNITA controlled airfield in Angola. The UAV’s conducted many surveillance operations bring back valuable intelligence on the disposition of opposing forces and most importantly vital intelligence on the location of static and mobile surface to air missile systems. This information was used by the intelligence community during pre-strike planning ad mission briefings to keep our aircraft and most importantly our pilots out of harms way.

The role that intelligence plays during operations is usually vastly under estimated. The intelligence community’s failures during the conduct of air operations can result in fatalities and with the limited sensors available to cover the area of operations, The intel staff done extremely well during Op MODULER, HOOPER and PACKER often faced with challenges of having scarce information at hand, due to limited sensor coverage. The UAV provided the intel staff with valuable intelligence.

The aircraft also led to the opposing forces firing of very expensive SA-8 mobile surface to air missiles against the UAV’s rather than the SAAF's Mirage F1’s and Buccaneers. On one occasion, either 16 or 17 SA-8s being fired, only downing 1 UAV. A total of three UAV’s were lost during the deployment.

When 10 Squadron was disbanded, the system remained operational with the Directorate Operational Support and Intelligence System, who were responsible for the system. The system was actually operated by Kentron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems on behalf of the Air Force.

During the last five or so years before its withdrawal, these small remotely operated aircraft were involved in conducting ‘collateral’ missions in the RSA, primarily in support of the South African Police Services, and Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (Branch: Marine and Coastal Management). These operations typically included two week operational deployments into the visicinty of ‘crime/problem’ spots for their the SAPS or MCM. The most of the missions flown were in the Gauteng area (support of SAPS) and in the Western Cape (support of MCM).

Mission Payloads

Super Colour Payload. 
This payload consists of a 2-axis gimbal platform on which two sensors are mounted, namely: Colour TV camera with a 20xZoom lens and switchable 2 x converter; and a secondary sensor consisting of a TV (monochrome) camera fitted with a wide-angle lens. The SCP when observing a standard 2.3m x 2.3m target, enables detection at 15,90km, recognition at 7,10km and identification at 5,20km.  When observing a standard 6,0 x 6,0m target, the sensor allows for detection at 37,40km, recognition at 17,90km and identification at 13,20km.

Multi-Sensor Payload. 
This payload consists of a stabilized 2-axis gimbal platform on which two sensors are mounted; namely: Thermal Imaging Sensor (Primary) consisting of two-Field-Of-Views and operating in the 3-5µ spectral band and a secondary sensor consisting of a colour TV camera fitted with a 18x zoom lens.

Operational data:

Speed:                          Loiter & Cruise: 65-70kt
                                       Dash: 100-105kt
                                      Never Exceed: 120kt

Radius of Action:     108nm (200km) Maximum Line Of Sight Operation from Ground Station.

Endurance:                 Short-Range @ 5,000ft AGL: 9-10 hours
                                     Long Range @ 10,000ft AGL @ 130nm, Time over Target: 5 hours.

Service Ceiling:         20,000ft (Rate of Climb 1,000ft/min)

Payload:                     50kg (surveillance package)

Fuel Capacity:          Standard 64L and Maximum 79L

Crew:                          Operational Team:
                                     1 x External Pilot
                                     1 x Internal Pilot
                                     1 x Mission Commander
                                     1 x Observer/Mission Payload Operator

                                     Ground Support Team:
                                     4-6


Images:

Seeker P04. Seeker P06. Seeker. Seeker in 2002. Seeker control. Seeker mobile controller.