The French Navy's 36F squadron has recently taken possession of the S-100 Camcopter drones, after 16 years of rigorous testing. These unmanned aircrafts are set to revolutionize naval operations with their unparalleled abilities to perform day and night, providing a significant operating range.
S-100 Camcopter Drones: An Evolution in Naval Aviation
The journey of the S-100 drone with the French Navy began with tests on the Montcalm anti-submarine frigate, later moving to the deep-sea patrol boat, “L'Adroit”. With the eventual goal of deploying the Serval from Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, the first successful deployment was achieved on the Dixmude.
Applications of the S-100/Serval Drones
Among the prime specifications of the S-100/Serval drone are its 200 kg takeoff weight, top speed of 220 km/h, and maximum altitude of 5,500 meters. Furthermore, it offers an impressive endurance of 6 hours in automatic mode, making it capable of monitoring landing operations, conducting reconnaissance missions, and serving as a UHF relay.
Assignment to 36F Squadron
As part of the Mercator strategic plan, the French Navy aimed to centralize drone expertise within a specialized unit – either by creating a new unit or assigning the responsibility to an existing helicopter squadron. The latter option was adopted in July 2019, when the 36F squadron was selected to acquire this capability. Consequently, the 36F is now the first naval aviation squadron to operate such devices, alongside their Panther helicopters.
On February 8, the Serval drones were officially handed over to the 36F squadron. It is anticipated that the squadron will soon achieve initial operational capacity and will outfit detachments of three amphibious assault ships while also developing cooperative engagements with Panther helicopters.
In April, the Navy announced that all S-100/Serval drones will receive an upgrade to the “v2” standard. This upgrade includes enhanced GPS jamming resistance and the addition of new sensors – notably the Wescam MX-10 NG camera and the P8 automatic detection electro-optical system of Ocean Watch.