QinetiQ has officially brought into service the Mirach advanced sub-sonic aerial target, as part of the Combined Aerial Target Service (CATS) contract for the UK's armed forces, having completed a series of complex verification and operational evaluation trials.
Under the CATS contract QinetiQ provides a service that meets all the UK MOD’s unmanned sub sonic aerial target requirements worldwide, including ground-based air defence (GBAD) training for the Army, aerial target services for the Royal Navy, and an air-to-air service for the RAF. The MOD awarded the CATS contract to QinetiQ on 14th December 2006 and it is worth up to £308m over 20 years.
Mirach targets are manufactured by SELEX Galileo of Finmeccanica and have been enhanced to offer a variety of sophisticated new payloads to meet MOD training requirements. These include the integration of commercial-off-the-shelf technologies like chaff and flare, an intense onboard heat source, miss distance indicator capabilities, radar enhancements and an IFF Transponder plus the ability to present towed IR and semi automatic radar targets.
Mirach operations have commenced from designated land based ranges and the CATS provision will also allow Mirach to be launched from on-board ship. Prior to becoming part of the CATS provision, QinetiQ operated Mirach under a separate contract to meet certain aspects of MOD’s overall targets requirement at the Aberporth range in South Wales as part of the 25-year Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA) for Test and Evaluation and Training Support services.
Each of the proposed aerial target technologies has met a strict selection process. A key feature of CATS is that QinetiQ’s independence from manufacturers allows it to make use of the best proven targets on the market both today and in the future.
CATS met its scheduled in-service date in April 2008 with the Banshee basic aerial target and the Pop-up ground-based helicopter target, both manufactured and supplied by Meggitt Defence Systems, the first elements to become available under the CATS contract. The QinetiQ team has since successfully delivered a target service with these on a number of occasions, including training army ground based air defence units in the Falkland Islands and deployments to Manorbier in Wales and at BATUS in Canada.
"QinetiQ’s CATS team provides a comprehensive air defence training service to the MOD that supports front-line operations,” explained Mike Howarth Managing Director of QinetiQ’s Managed Services business. “The experience we have gained under the CATS contract underpins QinetiQ’s provision of wider unmanned air vehicle and other high-end managed services plus demonstrates our ability to consistently deliver professional, value for money solutions to our global customers."
“CATS provides the UK armed forces with an efficient, cost effective and globally available service,” added Alan Dukes, TEST PT leader (Trials, Evaluation, Services & Targets, Project Team). “Significant joint effort between the QinetiQ and the project team has seen the challenging safety approvals addressed to ensure that the Mirach based element of CATS can be endorsed for service delivery."