RV Connex Shows Mini-UAV and Weaponised Scout

Sky Scout UAV
RV Connex has proved its ability to weaponise the Sky Scout/U1 tactical UAV for the Royal Thai Air Force. (Gordon Arthur)

Technology company RV Connex highlighted its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) design and manufacturing credentials, as well as its ability to modernise military aircraft, at Defense & Security 2023.

It unveiled a new mini-UAV called the Pathum, which is in a testing phase as part of its development. On display was a 1:2 scale model, and RV Connex plans to offer both the scaled-down and full-sized Pathum in the future, with a launch onto the market expected before the end of 2024.

The smaller version of the Pathum mini-UAV achieved its maiden flight about eight months ago. The larger Pathum, with a 3.1m wingspan, three hour endurance and maximum speed of 70km/h, can be launched by catapult. Recovery is via either a parachute or net.

It has a 4kg payload capacity, and it is suitable for ISR missions by special forces. A laser designator is planned to be part of its sensors, making it ideal for forward observers.

Also on display was RV Connex’s ability to weaponise the Sky Scout/U1 tactical UAV, which has a 6.3m wingspan and endurance of six hours. A total of 19 U1s were previously delivered to the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), and they are all currently operated by Wing 3. The customer engaged RV Connex to explore how to add weapons to them.

Peeraphon Trakulchang, Vice President of RV Connex, said his company added one hardpoint to each new strengthened wing of the Sky Scout, as well as improved sensors with greater resolution, a better flight control system and a stores management system. In around 2021, RV Connex successfully tested releasing two dummy bombs whilst in flight.

On display beside the Sky Scout was a Thales FF-LMM freefall precision-guided bomb, plus a guided bomb from the EDGE Group. The latter has not been tested yet.

This development work demonstrated that U1 UAVs of the RTAF can be weaponised as a retrofit. Indeed, with RV Connex proposing a midlife upgrade of the U1 fleet, this offers the air force an opportunity to perform this work should it decide to proceed.

RV Connex can also perform aircraft design and production, conduct aircraft upgrades and MRO, and it has expertise in software and systems design, autopilot systems, anti-drone systems and target drones for airborne threat testing.

It proved its capability by designing the upgrade for the RTAF’s Alpha Jets, plus it worked with TAI and Elbit Systems to modernise F-5E/F fighters for the Thai air force. For the Alpha Jet upgrade, RV Connex designed the cockpit upgrade, cockpit procedural trainer, simulator and data link, for instance.

Referring to the latter, the Thai company completely developed a new data link referred to as Link-TH. It moves on from Saab’s Link-T to give Thailand a more sovereign capability. Link-TH will be fitted on upgraded Alpha Jets, for example, as well as AT-6TH Wolverines when they start arriving next year. Link-TH uses a semi-transportable ground control station.

Trakulchang noted that, of RV Connex’s 420 or so employees, some 60% are engineers and technicians.

by Gordon Arthur