The Ministry of Defence has today announced it has ordered a third Zephyr-8, as part of a £13-million contract with Airbus Defence and Space.

Zephyr-8 is the latest version of a highly sophisticated series of ultra-lightweight UAVs, capable of flying up to 70,000ft – twice the altitude of a commercial airliner – for up to 45 days at a time. Referred to as a High Altitude Pseudo Satellite, it performs more like a satellite than a conventional UAV.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:

“Zephyr is a cutting edge, record-breaking piece of kit that will be capable of gathering constant, reliable information over vast geographical areas at a much greater level of detail than ever before.

They are part of our plan for stronger and better defence, backed by a budget that will rise each year of this decade. That means more ships, more aircraft, more troops available at readiness, better equipment for special forces, more being spent on cyber – to deal with the increased threats to our country.”

The third Zephyr-8 will join the two previously ordered by the MoD in February. Built in Farnborough by ADS, all three will form part of an Operational Concept Demonstrator to assess Zephyr’s capabilities and explore its potential for use by the UK Armed Forces and other Government Departments.

The additional Zephyr will allow 2 airframes to be tested simultaneously and demonstrate operational handover to show that the capability could be sustained indefinitely.

Defence Equipment and Support Chief Executive, Tony Douglas, said:

“Zephyr utilises a wide range of innovative technologies with the aim of delivering a world leading disruptive capability.

Purchasing a third airframe demonstrates how the MOD, through DE&S, can create a positive and collaborative partnership with industry, vital for both the UK economy and for our Armed Forces.”

The trials, which will be held in 2017, will inform Defence’s decisions around how best to provide next-generation battlefield intelligence to the UK Armed Forces.

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