Afghanistan has ordered another five ScanEagle systems (each with four UAVs, ground control equipment and maintenance gear) for $3.84 million each. Afghanistan had first ordered eight ScanEagle systems in 2015 and began using them in early 2016. The Afghans found ScanEagle very effective and asked for more (from the U.S. that supplies most of the money for the defense budget). The new order will all be delivered by the end of 2018.
Afghan soldiers have watched American troops use UAVs they control for about a decade and wanted some that they could operate themselves. ScanEagle seemed to be a good fit and it was. Afghan special operations troops in particular adapted to operating their own UAVs and word quickly spread among Afghan units.
The ScanEagle UAV weighs 22 kg (48.5 pounds). It has a 3.1 meter (10.2 foot) wingspan, and uses day and night video cameras. It uses a catapult for launch and can be landed via a wing hook that catches a rope hanging from a 16 meter (fifty foot) pole. There is also a smaller CLRE (Compact Launch and Recovery System) for ship use. On land Scan Eagle can also land on any flat, solid surface.
The Scan Eagle can stay in the air for up to 24 hours per flight and fly as high as 6 kilometers (19,500 feet). Scan Eagles cruising speed is 110 kilometers an hour (max is 148 kilometers) and it can operate at least a hundred kilometers from the ground controller. Scan Eagle carries an optical system that is stabilized to keep the cameras focused on an object while the UAV moves. Scan Eagle has been in military service since 2005.
ScanEagle is unarmed and intended for reconnaissance and surveillance. It is reliable, easy to use and gives Afghan troops their own aerial surveillance capability. This has been a major plus for Afghan intel operations because they don’t have to rely on aerial intel collected by someone else. There is something more compelling about evidence you can collect with your own eyes.