The AAROK, a revolutionary new large drone, was unveiled today at the Paris Air Show by French defence specialists Turgis and Gaillard. The drone is being hailed as Europe’s first Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone due to its guaranteed flight time of more than 24 hours. It’s an unmanned aircraft seeking to do the same job as the MQ-9 Reaper and other drones used in the War on Terror. With AAROK’s debut in Paris, we can speculate on the drone’s potential future usage.
The AAROK has a cruising speed of about 287 miles per hour, can climb to an altitude of 30,000 feet, and can carry 5.5 tonnes. Its wingspan is 72 feet, making it significantly larger than the MQ-9 Reaper’s 66 feet. In stark contrast to the AAROK, the Reaper is currently in use by the French armed forces for surveillance and targeted strikes in the ongoing War on Terror. The AAROK has a maximum payload capacity of 6,000 pounds, 3,000 of which can be weaponry. As promised, the AAROK is faster than the Reaper, but at the expense of a currently lower service ceiling.
The AAROK unmanned aerial vehicle is our first attempt at a remotely piloted aircraft, and we are proud to unveil it. Developed and manufactured in France, this UAV will meet the needs of the French and allied forces at a lower total cost, according to Turgis and Gaillard Group CEO Fanny Turgis.
The Reaper’s capacity to switch between remote pilots and teams mid-flight, as well as its integrated effective cams, many missiles, and enjoyment of a spot for targets for hours, made it a great fit for how the Pentagon used it. The Reaper excelled in counterinsurgency operations, as finding and following rebel groups throughout remote locations and towns was crucial to victory, providing sufficient intelligence for superiors to issue kill orders with confidence. (These instructions did not always hit the right targets, but the rockets always hit people on the ground below.)
The Reaper was designed for a specific setting, where the drone could fly for extended periods of time without fear of being shot down by opposing aeroplanes and at most encounter a minimal threat from human-portable anti-air rockets. Plane-sized drones can play a role in tracking and targeting, but they are resilient against dedicated anti-air defences and, in particular, enemy flying force, as the grinding conventional war in Ukraine has shown.
With its array of sensors and armament (bombs, rockets, etc.), the AAROK is an intriguingly novel take on the tried-and-true Reaper design. Turgis and Gaillard Group said in a press release that AAROK is remarkable due to its “robust style,” “ability to remove and land from rough fields,” “ability to run on all climate conditions,” flying endurance (more than 24 hours), and fully used cargo. Additionally, the company emphasised the drone’s high-quality electronic camera, radar, interaction detection, and transmission technologies.
Turgis and Gaillard believe the AAROK will be useful for monitoring “Exclusive Economic Zones,” which are areas of the ocean beyond a country’s territorial waters that the country has declared to be its own. More than 1.5 million French citizens call France’s overseas territories in the Indian and Pacific oceans home. The French Embassy in Malaysia is cognizant of the fact that the vast majority of France’s exclusive economic zone is located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans (about 93%).
Turgis and Gaillard promote the AAROK as an essential “property for functional supremacy (intelligence, reconnaissance, and assistance for high strength strikes even in objected to locations),” arguing that the drone’s design is effective and resilient enough to make it useful in the face of hostile defences. The AAROK would be used for searching and surveilling existing French claims to the ocean. The drone can also serve as a communications hub, transmitting information and directives from headquarters to troops stationed in the field.
The AAROK is still more of a promise than a reality, as the company’s CEO Patrick Gaiilard told Breaking Defence that the prototype “was ended up simply a couple of weeks earlier and hasn’t yet flown.”
However, the concept is an interesting sales pitch for the French military and other countries France may give weaponry to, such as its African partners or NATO allies. The AAROK is able to complete many of the same tasks as conventional drones like the Reaper, but it is built with cutting-edge technology and incorporates an understanding of contemporary dangers into its design from the get-go. The AAROK’s lower price tag compared to similar vehicles is touted as a benefit, making it more accessible to smaller militaries and, conversely, considerably more expendable for method-equipped militaries.
It remains to be seen how much of the promise can actually be given as the plane is still in the model phase. The guarantee itself is intriguing, being a drone designed for use and eventual loss in counterinsurgency and anti-submarine operations.