The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded a £129m contract to Lockheed Martin UK to deliver over 250 mini drones for the British Army.

The new drones will replace a range of Mini Uncrewed Aerial Systems (MUAS) that are currently in service with the army.

The ten-year contract includes the delivery of a total of 159 rotary-wing Indago 4 uncrewed devices and approximately 105 fixed-wing Stalker VXE30 drones.

The new drones are expected to enter service by the end of 2024.

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With a 4.88m wingspan, the 20kg portable Stalker is vertical-launched, near-silent drone that offers over eight hours of imaging capability. 

The 2.27kg Indago 4 packable drone can easily be folded/carried in a soldier’s backpack and has a range of eight miles.

Both platforms will provide enhanced intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance capability to the UK forces.

The two systems are expected to replace the service’s existing Desert Hawk 3 mini uncrewed aerial systems (MUAS).

UK Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) CEO Andy Start said: “These remotely piloted systems will enhance the ability of soldiers to gather crucial intelligence and capture essential imagery in a tactical environment.

“As well as equipping the UK Armed Forces for operations now and in the future, this key programme supports highly skilled jobs for the next decade.”

Lockheed Martin UK has also been chosen as the systems integrator for the contract.

The company will work with larger international UAS manufacturers and other small and medium firms, called the TIQUILA Enterprise, to provide through life support to the drones.

The enterprise will ensure that the drones can be upgraded rapidly to receive the best and latest technologies.

The work will support various engineering, commercial, support, and project management jobs at the company’s Havant and Gloucester facilities in the UK.