Warplanes: Algeria Has History With UAVs


May 21, 2019: In April 2019 Algeria revealed two locally developed and manufactured UAVs. Both are based on the twin-engine UA-40 UAV announced by UAE (United Arab Emirates) firm Adcom in 2010. However, Adcom never completed development of UA-40 and a smaller version called Flash 20. The UA-40/Flash 20 project was sold to Algeria in 2016 and two variants (Algeria 54 and Algeria 55) were produced and flown by 2018. The larger Algeria 54 is similar in size (1.5 ton) to the American Predator but is built for endurance and its twin engines can keep the UAV in the air for over 72 hours. Equipped with a SAR radar (for maritime search) and standard vidcam the Algeria 54 is suitable for patrolling coastal waters as well as the long desert borders Algeria shares with Libya and Mali. Both these borders are frequently crossed by smugglers using all-terrain 4x4 vehicles that bypass the few roads that featuring checkpoints at international borders. The SAR radar can detect such vehicles at night as the smugglers cross borders in remote areas.

Algeria has been using UAVs since the late 1990s when they purchased ten Seeker 2 UAVs from South Africa (Denel). These 400 kg, single engine UAVs have a payload of 40 kg, endurance of six hours, max altitude of 6,100 meters and can operate up to 250 kilometers from the base station. The Seeker was one of the earliest modern UAV designs, first entering service during the 1980s. Algeria paid $2 million each for those Seeker 2s.

In 2018 Algeria revealed that it had purchased at least ten Chinese UAVs, apparently five CH-3s and five CH-4s. Both of these have sold to a number of Moslem nations. The CH-4 was developed from the earlier (2010) CH-3, a 640 kg aircraft with 12 hours endurance and can carry two AR-1 missiles. The CH-4 is similar in shape to the American Predator. The latest version of CH-4 weighs 1.3 tons, has a 14 meter (46 feet) wingspan, and is 9 meters (28 feet) long. It has max altitude of 5,300 meters (16,400 feet) and an endurance of over 35 hours. Max payload (sensors and weapons) is 345 kg (759 pounds). A CH-4 can carry 4 weapons (or electronic devices) under the wings, each weighing up to 100 kg.

China offers Chinese-made weapons for both these UAVs Chief among these is a Hellfire clone; the AR-1. This is a 45 kg (99 pound) missile with a max range of 10 kilometers and a 10 kg (22 pound) warhead. AR-1 can be equipped with either GPS or laser guidance. The other weapon is a copy of the American SDB (small diameter bomb) which is a 128 kg (281 pound) GPS guided glide bomb in the shape of a missile with a penetrating warhead. The Chinese version is the FT-5 and is a 100 kg (220 pound) GPS guided bomb in the shape of a missile.

All Algerian UAVs primarily serve as surveillance aircraft, patrolling large, thinly populated areas seeking signs of illegal (smuggling, Islamic terrorist) activity. This apparently works because Algerian troops regularly intercept smugglers in remote border areas, find weapons and equipment smugglers, or Islamic terrorists have hidden in remote areas. While local informants are sometimes the source of information, a lot of the locations are obtained by UAVs patrolling day and night over areas where such activity is suspected.




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