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The Argentine Air Force is developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with next generation equipment for surveillance, control, and search-and-rescue operations.

The Aukán and Vigía 2B prototypes, currently in the evaluation phase, are the result of joint efforts from two bodies of the Argentine Air Force: the Directorate General for Research and Development (DGID, per its Spanish acronym) and the Center for Applied Research. The project uses domestic engineering, says Major General Guillermo José Alsúa, the chief of the Argentine Air Force’s UAV System Implementation Program told dialogo-americas.com. “Every member of the engineering team involved in the development process belongs to the Argentine Air Force.”

UAVs can serve as support not only for military operations, but also for community assistance and natural disaster situations,” Maj. Gen. Alsúa explained. “Aukán will operate within a tactical range of up to 150 kilometers from base,” he stated. “In turn, Vigía 2B can operate from practically any distance, regardless of the location of the base.”

The development process for these Argentine drones began in 2010, through a comprehensive approach between DGID and the Center for Applied Research.

The Aukán prototype is a Class I model (about 330 pounds or less), yet it has next generation equipment to train pilots who will later be flying the heavier Vigía 2B prototype.

“Aukán will initially equip the Military Aviation Academy. Given its equipment and features, it’s a good model for operations in the tactical environment,” Maj. Gen. Alsúa said. “That means that it can serve as support not only in military operations, but also in community assistance tasks, disaster situations, and logistics support, among other government functions.”

Aukán has a high-definition multi-sensor system, infrared vision and a designator to track targets in motion. With a 20-horsepower engine, it has already successfully performed several flight tests. “

The Vigía 2B prototype is even more advanced and will be certified under NATO Standardized Agreement (STANAG) 4671. Its dimensions were increased in order to end up with a vehicle that could comprehensively meet the Operational Requirements of the Air Force. “We chose an engine over 120 horsepower, and that transformed the aircraft into a Class II heavy unit with a MTOW [maximum takeoff weight] of 2,100 pounds, which will carry the electronic systems and sensors almost of a Class III,” Maj. Gen. Alsúa explained. “In other words, it’s a heavy Class II, but with many of the capabilities that would make it a Class III.”

The Air Force plans to develop three Vigía 2B prototypes. Each will undergo different tests in flight and on the ground. The first prototype will mostly focus on in-flight testing, flight characteristics, speeds and altitudes. The second will have sensor integration, while the third will meet all of the requirements for production.