“SiRTAP will be a real collaborative program, where we will work hand in hand with the wider Spanish aeronautics and defence industry.”
Modesto Revuelta Gómez is Head of AIRBUS’ SiRTAP Programme, for developing a “High Performance Remotely Piloted Aerial System”.
In 2015, a project for manufacturing tactical drones, known today as SiRTAP (High Performance Remotely Manned System), was conceived, and led by AIRBUS Spain. What are its main characteristics and what specifications make it unique in its segment?
SIRTAP is a high performance, fixed-wing tactical high endurance UAS with an extended range beyond line of sight provided by its satellite communication capability.
Thanks to its features, SiRTAP can carry out missions at a range of more than 2,000 kilometers and an endurance of 20 hours non-stop flight, ample for covering Spain’s entire national territory (including the islands), while flying at a maximum altitude of more than 20,000 feet and with a maximum take-off weight of 750 Kg with more than 150kg payload. The SiRTAP UAS is capable of operating in the most adverse weather conditions in maritime, mountain or desert environments, including rain and winds up to 20 knots.
Given the changing nature of conflict and the increasing participation of Armed Forces support for civil emergencies, SiRTAP has a dual-use design, thus extending the range of possibilities in terms of missions.
SiRTAP’s future-proof design includes a high and agile growth capability, allowing the addition of new generation sensors matching future needs and expectations as well as sharing the mission system with other existing platforms, which makes this UAS a perfect complementary asset when operating alongside other military or civil assets.
An exportable solution, SiRTAP offers an ITAR-free classification and less restrictive manufacturing and assembly processes, easily set up in any potential customer territory anywhere in the world.
How did the program begin, and which countries’ needs is it aiming to cover?
With the need to acquire a replacement of the Army’s Searcher Mkll (IAI) RPAS by the end of 2025 or early 2026 and an ambition to acquire platforms for the Spanish Air Force, while Colombia is planning to replace its Elbit Hermes 450 drones in the same timeframe, Airbus launched an initial study phase in 2015 following a request from Spain, joined soon after by Colombia in 2017.
With both nations as de facto programme launch customers, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between both nations’ Ministry of Defences in February 2019. Momentum on the programme continued soon after when in April the programme was declared as a Program of National Interest by Spain. By January 2021, a formal proposal was submitted by Airbus to the Spanish Ministry of Industry.
In terms of requirements, Spain is considering nine systems comprising 27 drones, while six systems comprising 18 drones are the ambition for Colombia.
What would the impact be on our country as a result of the design, manufacture, marketing, and support of this type of UAS?
Airbus, as programme lead, has drawn up an industrial plan which involves the main Spanish aeronautical and technological companies with the aim of ensuring that approximately 90% of equipment and systems are “Made in Spain”.
SiRTAP will be a real collaborative program, where we will work hand in hand with the wider Spanish aeronautics and defence industry, allowing small and medium companies, as well as key Spanish industries, helping to develop key competencies that pave the way for successful participation in future UAS programmes. Airbus would act as a driving force and expert know-how provider, with more than 100 Spanish businesses spread across 14 of the 17 Spanish autonomous regions.
This is a dual-use drone for both civil and military use. What needs is it designed to cover and what will its main missions be?
From a military standpoint, it is designed for advanced surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance missions both on land and at sea. This would include for example, maritime surveillance, target identification, damage evaluations orconvoy protection, among many other specific defence missions. It will also be equipped with a satellite communications systems that allows SiRTAP to be operated beyond visual range, although the other sensor types could be integrated thanks to the future-proof growth potential embedded in the design.
Regarding governmental missions, the mission scope includes monitoring of illegal fishing and banned substance trafficking, natural disasters, forest fires, search and rescue in different environents, whether at altitude or at sea level, monitoring of migratory movements and border control, as well as protection of critical infrastructures.
Thanks to its dual use design, SiRTAP will be able to contribute towards protection and prosperity of society.
Has the pandemic affected deadlines set during the project’s development? Where is the project at currently?
Despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the programme deadlines initiall forecast have not been impacted and we are in a position to provide the system 48 months following signature of a contract.
As of today, the programme is ready to be launched with all the guarantees provided by Airbus and with the essential collaboration of wider Spanish companies.
Spain is a benchmark in the unmanned aircraft and aerial robotics industry. What are the main strengths of this sector in our country?
Airbus offers expertise and know-how in the design and development of mission systems for aerial platforms and ground stations for UAVs, as well as proven experience in the development of simulators, not least those used by the Spanish Air Force Matacán base.
In the particular field of UAS, Airbus Defence and Space Spain has developed capabilities over the course of some of Europe´s leading UAS programmes and demonstrators, including Atlante, Barracuda and Neuron.
As Spain’s leading aerospace and defence company, Airbus leads Spain’s participation in the Eurodrone program and is part of the FCAS Remote Carriers pillar.