At the Dubai Air Show EDGE, the leading defence group in the UAE, exhibited a number of firsts, among which its new medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned air system (UAS), the Reach-M, which leverages the work done on the smaller version unveiled last February
Among the many new products exhibited for the first time by EDGE at the IDEX 2023 exhibition that took place in Abu Dhabi in February 2023, the leading UAE defence group introduced a new UAS, the Reach-S.
Designed to provide the military with surveillance and target acquisition capabilities, while being also able to carry a payload allowing to carry out an attack mission against a target identified, the UAS developed by Halcon, one of the many companies part of EDGE, was developed in a very short time and according to information was proposed on the market at a very attractive price.
Less than nine months after the UAE exhibition, EDGE is unveiling at the Dubai Air Show a second member of the Reach family, the Reach-M. If “S” was standing for Small, “M” should stand for Medium, the new UAS being definitely much bigger than the one unveiled at IDEX. It has a 1,500 kg maximum take-off mass, versus 640 kg of the S-model, its payload being 350 kg, nearly three times the 120 kg of the smaller airframe.
The Reach-M maintains the twin-boom architecture, typical of UAS powered by a pushing propeller; linked to the wings, the two booms sustain an inverted-V tail plane. It is fitted with a tricycle landing gear, with a retractable front wheel, the two wheels fitted under the wings being also retractable, which was not the case in the smaller UAS. This allows reducing the drag when airborne, propulsion being ensured by an undisclosed engine, the Reach-S being powered by a 110 hp Rotax 912 four-stroke four-cylinders piston engine, a three-blade being also adopted here although of bigger diameter. The air intake remains on top of the rear fuselage, as in the previous model.
The wingspan is 17 meters compared to the 12 meters of the “S. Endurance is comparable, both being able to fly continuously for 24 hours, the same applying to range, which is 200 km when fitted with a line-of-sight data-link, while of course if a SATCOM data-link is installed range is limited by endurance and mission profile.
Cruising speed is increased from 145 km/h to 170-180 km/h, an over 17% increase that will certainly affect mission range, while also the ceiling augments considerably, stepping up from 19,000 to over 26,000 feet.
Coming to the payload, the Reach-M gimbal hosting optronic sensors is mounted under the fuselage, just behind the nose wheel bay, while the new UAS has three strong-points under each wing, to which we must add that under the fuselage. Several weapons could be seen in Dubai attached or around the airframe.
The heavier one was a Thunder-P31 guided bomb, based on an Mk81 250-pound (110 kg) dumb bomb fitted with the inertial/GNSS guidance system developed by Halcon, which ensures a 10 metres CEP, which is reduced to 3 metres when exploiting the semi-active laser guidance. The weapon gross weight is around 140 kg, and it was shown attached under the fuselage strong-point. Ahead of the Thunder we could see the new RASH-3 high-precision guided munition system, capable of engaging small to medium-sized threats, which has also be unveiled at the Dubai Air Show.
Desert Sting-25 guided gliding weapons were also visible, these having a gross mass of 47 kg, 25 kg being the warhead which is fitted with an impact/height of burst fuse. These are fitted with a guidance kit similar to that used on the Thunder-P31, hence accuracy is the same.
A couple of unnamed powered systems, the smaller with fixed wings and the bigger one with foldable wings could also be seen, close to the Reach-M, these being also part of potential payloads that can be carried under the wings.