The French Air Force (FAF) has successfully tested Harfang UAV's capability to be controlled from a domestic location after taking off from a foreign base.
In an hour-long experiment, the cockpit control of a Harfang was transferred mid-air from Niger in the Sahel-Sahara region to Cognac 709 Air Base in south-west France.
The UAV has been deployed in the Sahel-Sahara region since 2013 in support of Operation Serval in Mali.
The first-of-its-kind test also confirmed that its main sensor could be activated.
The new capability enhances the UAV's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) features without having to leave national territory, said the company.
Undertaken by a team from the French Military Flight Test Centre, the UAS Squadron "Belfort" (ED 1/33) and the Sahel-Saharan UAS detachment, the test validates the Reachback or Remote Split Operations (RSO) capabilities of the UAV.
Derived from Israel Aerospace Industries' (IAI) Heron UAV, the Harfang is a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (Istar) system designed for strategic reconnaissance and in-depth tracking operations.
Using a remote operations video-enhanced receiver (Rover) transmission system, the drone broadcasts real-time video imagery to ground troops.
The Harfang can be operated autonomously or manually controlled from the ground control station.
Comprising four UAVs and three ground stations, the FAF's current Harfang fleet is being operated by the ED 1/33 Belfort squadron at the Cognac 709 air base.
In addition to Operation Serval, Harfang is also deployed in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in Afghanistan, and at the Sigonella base in Italy.
Under a contract from the French defence procurement agency, Airbus Defence and Space, and IAI are upgrading the UAV to extend its life until the end of 2017.
Image: The test validates Harfang's Reachback capability. Photo: courtesy of Calips.