Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Fail : Pheonix

Part 2 in our weekly series of military projects that never really made it.

The Pheonix UAV was developed by GEC & BAE Systems for the British Army's artillery to work with the Battlefield Artillery Target Engagement System (BATES).  It is perhaps a typical example of a modern British defence project. Late, expensive, flawed. No maybe that is unfair as usually the end result works well after much toil and sweat and billions of pounds. Pheonix seldom did.

Despite a first flight in 1986 by 1995 there were no signs Pheonix could be got to work. After a review of the project a final chance was given to the manufacturers to try and get into service and they achieved this in 1999 and Pheonix saw active service in Kosovo and Iraq war. 198 were built, though because so many were lost they probably needed more. 23 were lost alone between March and April 2003 over Southern Iraq, there must be a market for UAV bits in Basra. Officially the Army say it worked well and that some attrition was due to it being kept on station for longer to keep an eye on the target and thus it could not be recovered.

Pheonix was launched by catapult from the back of a specially designed truck and landed by parachute. From the very basic design concepts alone you can see that something was wrong. Pheonix was a twin-boom design but instead of that then allowing for a pusher propeller to be fitted a tractor propeller was fitted instead on the front. Thus this meant the sensors had to be carried in a large pod underneath to avoid being obstructed by the prop. Most odd.

Pheonix was finally taken out of it's misery and retired in 2008.

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