Eagle takes to the African skies

For the first time ever, a Swedish tactically unmanned aerial vehicle, a TUAV, lifted under the UN flag in Africa. The aerial vehicle, the UAV 03 Örnen (Eagle) of the Swedish Armed Forces, is one part of Mali 01’s capability for gathering information in support of the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA.

During the take-off preparations, Örnen is positioned on the take-off ramp with engine operating without arousing any curiosity from the Timbuktu residents passing on the other side of the wire fence. Photo: Jonas Svensson/Swedish Armed Forces
Örnen takes off from a ramp and lands on the specially constructed runway outside Camp Nobel. Photo: Jonas Svensson/Swedish Armed Forces
The take-off went well and everyone is satisfied. The landing late on Friday evening was also a success. Photo: Jonas Svensson/Swedish Armed Forces
After several hours’ flying over the desert, Örnen landed outside Camp Nobel late on Friday. Photo: Jonas Svensson/Swedish Armed Forces

UAV stands for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and is the internationally accepted name for an unmanned aerial vehicle such as Örnen. TUAV, on the other hand, stands for Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. This means that Örnen is significantly larger - and can fly further and higher – than its smaller cousins Svalan and Korpen that also fly in Mali and which actually started operating a few weeks earlier than Örnen.

The Head of the TUAV unit is relieved that Örnen could finally take to the skies and is responsible for ensuring that everything works properly. He states that it has been a long journey in more respects than merely the distance from Sweden! Mali is a new location for the unit, the equipment has been moved a long way and the preconditions for flying in Mali are very different.

The start of operations for the TUAV, on Friday evening at Camp Nobel's airfield, marks the beginning of a period of intensive flying operations for Mali 01's TUAV unit.

This means long working sessions for the TUAV unit's personnel comprising technicians, imagery analysts, sensor operators, operation supervisors and pilots. All of these have a vital role to play in ensuring that the vehicle is able to fly and deliver images that, in their turn, become important elements of the intelligence collection that is main task of the Mali detachment.

"It's really good that we have now got the one jigsaw piece that we were lacking in our intelligence collection capability. So now we're operating in Malian airspace and this means that we can be much more active in our information gathering," says Lieutenant Colonel Carl-Magnus R Svensson, who is in charge of Mali 01.