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The New French Drone Aarok Will Be Able to Carry a Payload of 2721.5 Kg, Stay in the Air for 24 Hours, and Have a Firing Range of 35 Km

The French pre­sent­ed a pro­to­type of a new self-pro­duced drone, Aarok. The Aarok Unmanned Air­craft Sys­tem, or UAS, is a new addi­tion to the medi­um-alti­tude long-endurance (MALE) drone seg­ment and is designed for intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance, recon­nais­sance (ISR) as well as strike mis­sions.

For strike mis­sions, the drone will car­ry the French-made AASM Ham­mer, a pre­ci­sion-guid­ed weapon with an extend­ed kill radius and vary­ing war­head sizes. The fir­ing range is over 35 kilo­me­ters.

Aarok is a prod­uct of French defense con­trac­tor Tur­gis & Gail­lard. The drone, weigh­ing about 5.4 tons in its max­i­mum take-off con­fig­u­ra­tion, attract­ed atten­tion for its size. Its wingspan is 21.9 meters, slight­ly larg­er than the US-made MQ-9A Reaper, with a wingspan of just over 21.03, but the fuse­lage is sig­nif­i­cant­ly bulki­er in com­par­i­son.

Pow­er for the Aarok is pro­vid­ed by a 1,200 horse­pow­er Pratt & Whit­ney Cana­da PT6 tur­bo­prop engine dri­ving a con­ven­tion­al for­ward pro­peller. In the future, Tur­gis & Gail­lard plans to install a Safran Ardi­den 3 or GE Avi­a­tion Cat­a­lyst tur­bo­prop engine.

In addi­tion to a max­i­mum take-off weight of 5.4 tonnes, the Aarok’s pub­lished spec­i­fi­ca­tions include an emp­ty weight of approx­i­mate­ly 2.5 tonnes and a max­i­mum pay­load of 2,721.5 kg, includ­ing up to 1,500 kg of weapons.

The drone will be able to oper­ate for more than 24 hours. These para­me­ters place the Aarok in a cat­e­go­ry broad­ly sim­i­lar to the MQ-9A Reaper, which is already in ser­vice with the French Air Force.

Aarok is designed to per­form “recon­nais­sance mis­sions, stand­off strike mis­sions, mar­itime sur­veil­lance, and mul­ti-domain com­mu­ni­ca­tions relay.” The last of these roles will see Aarok used as “sort of a French BACN”.

The BACN pay­load allows air plat­forms to act as high­ly spe­cial­ized air com­mu­ni­ca­tions nodes that can quick­ly relay infor­ma­tion to and from var­i­ous air plat­forms to oth­er air plat­forms and forces on land and at sea. This com­mu­ni­ca­tions gate­way sys­tem has been installed on both manned E‑11A aircraft—modified Bom­bardier Glob­al Express series busi­ness jets—and retired EQ-4B Glob­al Hawk drones.

The ISR pack­age for Aarok will include “high-per­for­mance opto­cou­pler and elec­tro­mag­net­ic sen­sors”, with IHS Janes sug­gest­ing the Wescam MX-25 or Euroflir 610 as the most like­ly sen­sor options.

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