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The Drone Index: EDGE Group Reach-S

December 30, 2021
Via EDGE Group.

Having consolidated its military-industrial sector under one holding company the Emirates’ are now racing ahead with domestic manufacturing of advanced weapon systems. The recent Dubai Air Show 2021, and even the earlier IDEX 2021, were used to promote the latest efforts by EDGE Group. But a real standout in November’s aerospace industry event was the twin-boom UCAV called the Reach-S. Its startling resemblance to the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2, whose reputation in the Middle East is at an all time high, never elicited any comments from EDGE Group.

But the numbers don’t lie. The Reach-S and the TB2 have the same Rotax 912 propeller engine that allows a flight ceiling of 18,000 feet (although the TB2 can go higher) and a speed of 180-200 kilometers per hour. The payload capacity and the munitions are identical for either; the Reach-S carries four Desert Sting-16 air-to-ground missiles, with two hardpoints under each wing. Aside from missiles, EDGE Group has a complete range of large and small munitions for the Reach-S. The mission endurance of the Reach-S, even without a combat record, is 24 hours while the TB2 lasts 27 hours according to its manufacturer Baykar Technology. The maximum flight range for the Reach-S is 200 km–still short of the “less than 300 km” of the TB2.

There’s no confirmation from any source that acknowledges the Reach-S being a licensed variant of its Turkish-made peer.

Disregarding its combat role for a moment the Reach-S is a very promising drone when compared to similar models from Europe. Take the Leonardo Falco Evo, another single engine twin-boom model, and its characteristics give a helpful perspective on what the Reach-S can accomplish. Although the Falco Evo is unarmed they both have the same flight ceiling of 18,000 feet. Mission range and the data link with the ground control station are a match for either model. A crucial difference is the Falco Evo is unarmed, which begs an important question: How come Europe’s aerospace giants never put any effort into a low-cost UCAV when the technology was always within their grasp?

The Reach-S even holds its own when stacked against the much older and successful IAI Searcher from Israel. The pioneering twin-boom surveillance drone has maintained its edge over decades and won a sterling reputation. Based on performance characteristics published by IAI the unarmed Searcher Mk III flies higher and farther than the Reach-S. But the Emirati attack drone has better mission endurance, where the IAI Searcher only stays aloft for 20 hours at the most, and the Reach-S is faster thanks to its airframe layout and engine type.

What EDGE Group accomplished with the Reach-S will transform the Emirates’ air power in the coming decade. Not only does it sever Abu Dhabi’s reliance on foreign suppliers like China and the US but the active production of Reach-S paves the way for larger and more effective combat drones. With funding and infrastructure in place and unhindered access to global suppliers only a few short years are needed until the Emirates unveils a high altitude UCAV and perhaps something beyond this. For now it should help the reader understand the Reach-S’ place in the worldwide market for combat drones if its characteristics are tabulated alongside its competition.

Reach-SBayraktar TB2Seeker 400 SnyperCH-95Kaman-12Falco EVO
Manufacturer:Edge Group (UAE)Baykar (Turkey)Denel
(S. Africa)
CASC (China)SSJO (Iran)Leonardo (Italy)
Length (feet):1821N/A13.451720
Wingspan (feet):3239 N/A30 3241
Max. TOW:520 kg.700 kg.400 kg.650 kg.450 kg.650 kg.
Max. Speed:200 km/h222 km/h200 km/h200 km/h200km/h200 km/h
Armament:4 missiles4 missiles2 missiles4 missiles4 missilesNone
Flight Endurance (hours):242716121020+
Max. Altitude (feet)18-19,00018-25,00018,00023,00018,00019,600
GCS Range (km):200300250250200200+
Automatic Take Off:YYYYYY

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