Technology and Drone exhibition in Chaumont: Sagem spotlights partnership with French army 61st artillery regiment

During the weekend of June 28-29, 2014, the French army's 61st artillery regiment organized an open house at the Aboville camp in Chaumont (Champagne-Ardenne region), in conjunction with the "Technology and Drone” exhibition for both civil and military applications. Sagem (Safran) was on hand of course, with a stand spotlighting its partnership with the 61st artillery regiment, as supplier of its Sperwer tactical drone systems.

The 61st artillery regiment, center of drone expertise for the French army

Created in 1910, the 61st artillery regiment has over a century of experience in warfare and military operations. Deploying the famous 75 mm gun, it underwent its baptism of fire on August 22, 1914. Right from the initial combat actions, the regiment's gunners earned the nickname, "the black devils". Today, the regiment is at the forefront of the digital battlespace and the information revolution. As part of the intelligence brigade, it also works alongside the 44th and 54th transmission regiments (electronic warfare), the 2nd hussar regiment (human intelligence), and the 28th geographic group. The first Sperwer tactical drones were deployed by the regiment in 2004, replacing the previous Crecerelle drones, also made by Sagem. With the Crecerelle, then the Sperwer, the French army was one of the pioneers in drone operation, while also consolidating a new operational approach based on multi-sensor intelligence. The regiment was deployed to Afghanistan in October 2008 to support French troops from the Tora FOB, using its Sperwer drone systems. Sperwer drones logged nine continuous years of service in Afghanistan, under the colors of the Canadian, Dutch and French armies. It carried out a wide range of missions, including photo intelligence, protection of convoys and infantry units in hostile territory, IED search, and guidance for artillery and combat helicopters.

Sagem, the Sperwer prime

Sagem's Sperwer drone system, "100% Made in France", is a clear success, with 25 complete systems and 150 drones produced to date. Since entering service in the early 2000s, the drone has undergone continuous modernization by Sagem: a new launch catapult, inter-drone relay function, a new optronics system, portable terminals for the direct reception of images from the drone (RVT system), and integration of Stanag 4609 standard modems to share image intelligence with NATO members.

Sagem provides support and modernization services for all systems in operation, enabling the 61st artillery regiment to carry out its assigned missions. Sagem's plant in Montluçon (Auvergne region) is in charge of drone production and system integration, while the Fougères plant (Brittany) makes the printed circuit boards, the Poitiers plant (Poitou-Charentes) the cameras, and the Dijon plant (Burgundy) the gyro-stabilized optronic pods. Contracts signed with the French Ministry of Defense enable Sagem to guarantee the operability of the drones deployed by the French army until the advent of a new generation of tactical drones. The French government's SDT (Système de Drones Tactiques) project, included in the five-year military spending bill for 2014-2019, is expected to enter service in 2017 – and Sagem is offering its new Patroller tactical drone to meet this requirement.

The 61st regiment took advantage of this open house to offer the public a dynamic demonstration of its Sperwer drone, including use of the catapult, a ground station and the RVT portable terminal. Sagem's exhibition stand spotlighted the operating experience logged by the regiment, especially in Afghanistan, and the outstanding performance of its very-high-resolution imaging systems, based on optronic pods with Euroflir family sensors.

Based in Haguenau (Alsace), the 2nd Hussar Regiment, a human intelligence unit that is part of the intelligence brigade, was also on hand for the 61st artillery regiment's open house. It displayed some of the portable optronics used for operations, including the JIM LR (Jumelle Infrarouge Multifonction – Long Range) multifunction infrared binoculars produced by Sagem's Poitiers plant.

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