The Foiche Mark I Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle, Foiche Mark I UCAV for short, is the newest in a long line of remote-controlled aerial vehicles, and one of the first in services with the SDF, that fits the role of combat, reconnaissance, target-acquisition, hunter-killer-operations and observation. The Foiche Mark I UCAV is capable of both remotely controlled flight via a ground control station (see below) and autonomous flight.
The term foiche means wasp.
The Foiche Mark I UCAV is an unmanned aerial combat vehicle with low-mounted wings, spanning rounded up 20 metres from wingtip to wingtip, eleven metres in length, four metres in height, weighting 2.3 tons when empty. It is capable of carrying a huge payload over long distances and without the risk for human losses. Due to its modular architecture, including double-redundant fly-by-wire technology and double-redundant digital databusses, it is easy to maintain and replace damaged parts. For carrier-operations, the wings can be folded up.
Due to its tail assembly, an inverted V-tail, providing both rudder and elevator in one, the Foiche Mark I UCAV has a smaller radar cross-section, further emphasized by planform edge alignment and the usage of radar-absorbent materials in the construction of the airframe, as well as reduction of the thermal signature, the Foiche Mark I UCAV is a stealth-drone. While not completely undetectable, the UCAV is harder to detect by high-frequency radars, like the ones used for military purposes.
The Foiche Mark I UCAV is powered by a turboprop engine, a derivative of the Veilbhit Light Attack Aircraft's engine, which was made more silent. The engine, a Luas L-32 Mark III, provides 715 kilowatts of energy and is mounted above the V-tails. It comes equipped with a digital electronic engine control system (DEEC-System), a system making the engine easier to maintain, extending engine life and increasing performance of the engine itself, using less fuel for the same operations, thus either decreasing operational costs or extending the range considerably.
The Foiche Mark I UCAV is equipped with an onboard computer, which controls all onboard functions, like the DEEC, can take care of take-offs and landings and can be programmed to execute missions, including strike missions, on its own thanks, to advanced identification and targeting software.
The Foiche Mark I UCAV can be deployed from aircraft carriers, drone carriers like the Faoileán-class Drone Carrier of SDY, both including launches via EMALS-catapults, and of land-bases. Net-landings are possible, though not fully recommended, as are landing via arrestor hooks due to the added device at the end.
When operating from land-bases, we recommend using a 1.5 kilometre long runway for remote-controlled landings and a 900 metres long runway for automated landings. The entire system, including the ground control station, can be packed up within seven hours, flown to every place in the world with a long enough runway for the heavy-duty transport aircraft of choice, and be unpacked again and ready for operations within an additional seven hours.
Sensors and countermeasures
The Foiche Mark I UCAV is equipped with a variety of sensors, some of which are mounted underneath the nose in a small cupola, others of which are strewn across the craft.
Housed in the cupola are the main components of the multi-spectral targeting system, a camera with thermographic, monochrome and infrared modes, which also includes a laser designator and rangefinder to assist laser-guided ammunition in finding the identified target. The camera can also be used for reconnaissance and surveillance of a target area.
Mounted all along the hull are the sensors of an IRST System, a system for the searching and tracking of infrared signatures, like for example of the engines of an aircraft. This passive system of detection is far harder to detect then comparable radar systems, mainly due to the IRST not giving off any radiation of its own.
Also onboard is a low-probability-of-intercept radar suite, a Nuacht N-31 Mark VII Multi-Role Radar, which can also be used as a synthetic aperture radar, providing terrain information for both reconnaissance and low altitude flying, including automated low altitude flying, and has the capability to discern a possible target from clutter, including dismounted targets and targets on the surface of the sea. In order to reduce the probabilty of being detected, the side and back lobes of the radar were reduced and blocked, while also compressing the pulse emitted by the radar and frequency hopping. The N-31 is also constructed to use only the minimal amount of power required for any given task. Due to this design, it is more difficult then with a normal radar for an enemy radar warning receiver to identify and track the Foiche Mark I UCAV.
In order to detect enemy radars, the Foiche Mark I UCAV is equipped with an own Radar Warning Receiver, which catches the emissions of enemy radars and warns of their presence, including the emissions of radar-guided missiles.
Communication and Flight Control
The Foiche Mark I UCAV uses the Cráinfhoiche Control Station as a control system, communicating with the control station either by direct radio communication over short ranges, for example for take-offs, landings and operations close to the base, or by radio via satellite for longer range operations. The control over the drone can be 'handed over' from one control station with the correct identification to another relatively easily. In occasions of hacking, when the drone does not receive the correct identification, the drone automatically self-destructs without anything more then small splinters raining from the sky.
To prevent hacking or disruption from other sources, the Foiche Mark I UCAV and the Cráinfhoiche Control Station communicate with the usage of an ECM-resistant, radio-hopping device with additional encryption, not entirely preventing the disruption of communications between Ground Control and UCAV, but making it considerably harder.
A signal from the Ground Control to the UCAV can take up to 1.1 seconds via satellite. The datalink, a distant cousin of the Type 900 used by Silverport Dockyards Limited on their military vessels, provides enough bandwith for all sensor data to be transmitted back to the Ground Control without losses in performance.
The Cráinfhoiche Control Station itself can be manned by one soldier trained in the operations, video-game like controllers and touchscreen maps provide user-friendliness and ease of operations, as well as training, more or less enabling everybody to be able to learn the operational ropes of the system.
While the Foiche Mark I UCAV can be used from other Control Stations, we highly recommend the Cráinfhoiche Control Station.
The term cráinfhoiche refers to the queen of a stock of wasps.
The Foiche Mark I UCAV has seven hardpoints, two inboard stations, two middle stations, two outboard stations and a centre station.
The inboard stations can each carry 700 kilograms of weapons or external fuel tanks, the middle stations 300 kilograms and the outboard stations 70 kilograms. Usually, the centre station is unused, but the SDF has a small and handy ECM-Pod for the Foiche Mark I UCAV mounted on that station, the same as the one used on the Stuama Light Multirole Fighter, adding Electronic Warfare Capabilities.
The Foiche Mark I UCAV can carry laser-guided ammunition, free-fall ammunition and short-range fire-and-forget air-to-air missiles. In many cases, racks with multiple of these weapons give the Foiche Mark I UCAV longer mission endurance and, in essence, more bang. As the Foiche Mark I UCAV mounts these weapons externally, they disrupt the stealth characteristics unless stealthy ammunition is used.
In the 90s and early 2000s, the SDF came to the startling realization, that, while they had wonderful combat aircraft in the Gaoth Fighterbomber and several other good reconnaissance aircraft, they indeed lacked the “Deadly Persistence” required to stay over a target area until the target presented itself and to either track or attack it.
Several proposals were made, but in the end, a small concept won: An unmanned aerial vehicle, which could circle over the enemy and wait. Development was drawn out and not as simple as it sounded, especially as the requirements changed several times, from an unarmed reconnaissance aircraft to an armed multi-purpose drone with stealth-capabilities (which were added in 2010) and the ability to be deployed from aircraft carriers. The development of several components was drawn out as well.
The maiden flight was achieved in 2013, but some problems persisted – in 2014, shortly after the first mock-ups of the EMALS-catapults used on the Beag-class Aircraft Carrier and the Faoileán-class Drone Carrier were available for testing, testing commenced on those, breaking apart the prototype at its seams, sending parts of it over half of the Silver Bay.
A reinforced prototype achieved maiden flight later in 2014, which became the Mark 0, the finite prototype and only a few kinks away from the production model.
That came about in early-2015, with the Foiche Mark I UCAV, the first systems of which were delivered in late 2015, beginning testing and operations from Water Police Drone Carriers and the [i]SDFS Nead Foiche[/i], the Drone Carrier of the SDF-Navy, as well as land bases of the SDF.
First excercises were promising, the trial by fire happened in Rhiton, where the Foiche Mark I UCAV was one of the crucial elements of combat operations in conjunction with operations of the III./11th Dragan-Regiment and the Great Woods Rangers, supporting operations of Colonel Solov.
One Foiche Mark I UCAV: 20 million NSD (including training, spare parts for six months of combat service)
Cráinfhoiche Control Station: 15 million NSD (including training, spare parts for six months of combat service)
System cost, one Foiche Mark I UCAV and one Cráinfhoiche Control Station: 32.5 million NSD (including training, spare parts for six months of combat service)
One Operations System (four Foiche Mark I UCAVs and one Cráinfhoiche Control Station): 125 million NSD (including training and spare parts for six months of combat service)