Type: high-flying long-enduring OPV
Significant date: 2004
The first public references to Low Altitude Long Enduring Endurance (LALEE) were made during Asian Aerospace in 2002 by Singapore’s chief defense scientist, Prof. Lui Pao Chuen. He showed delegates attending the C4I conference a twin-boom design with (naturally) a long wing. “The rapid development in communications, sensors, information and computer technologies has created a quantum jump in the environment,” he wrote. “When synergized with precision strike weapons and unmanned air vehicles, a disruptive warfighting concept can be realized.” Maj Gen Lim, from the Singapore Ministry of Defence, commented: "We will have to look at replacing the E-2C, which has been with us for 14 years. I think the time has come. There are a few options to look at. There could be completely new ways of meeting the requirement. It could evolve into two different sets of platforms to meet expanded operational capabilities."
Little was said of LALEE after that, although a government minister had acknowledged in November 2003 that the LALEE was a potential E-2C Hawkeye replacement in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). Finally in 2006, Singapore Technologies Aerospace (or ST Aero) and the Singapore Defence Science Organisation (DSO) revealed configuration details for the new optionally piloted air vehicle explored over the past three years as a possible solution to the nation’s ongoing LALEE requirement.
The LALEE system is effectively a HALE UAV but at first may appear to have a confusing moniker. It is called "low altitude" by Singapore because it would work in conjunction with that nations existing military surveillance satellite program—is required to perform airborne early warning, maritime and ground surveillance, and communications relay roles. It would fly above the airways and below satellite surveillance systems. Endurance is self-explanatory, meaning a long dwell time such as is already demonstrated by the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle. Long-enduring is a reference to the DSO’s aim that this platform should be in service for 30 years.
LALEE is described by company officials as "an integrated airborne surveillance and communications system designed to provide continuous temporal coverage over a very large area. Providing a task group operating in the littorals with continuous surveillance from the air with this class of UAV will be considerably cheaper than operating current generation of surveillance and communications platforms. The technology is there but whether Navies will to want to invest in this class of UAV will depend on their perceived need for a continuous coverage platform." Said one Singapore observer: "LALEE is supposed to be the replacement for our aging AWACS aircraft. If completed, it will be the world's first unmanned battle management UAV. If we are very lucky, it will have some of the capabilities of the American JSTARS in addition to the AWACS".
Speaking at Unmanned Systems Asia-Pacific in February 2006, Tan said “the success of HALEs (...) in recent conflicts means that there is value for it. We are looking at how a HALE UAV can be used to support some of the operations that we do, especially persistent surveillance. We are only at the front of the study right now; we are not looking at the cost, not the performance”. Dr Tan Jiak Kwang, chief engineer and director of advanced systems, Singapore Technologies Aerospace, told the conference 19 February that the existing LALEE design studies were based on air vehicle operations at altitudes of between 45-65,000 ft (18,000m) and the use of a modular payload system configurable for a variety of payload options.
In the early stages of the project, the DSO engaged Burt Rutan as a consultant, presumably for his experience with the high-altitude, twin-boom, twin-engine Proteus. However, due to some export treaty violations his involvement was halted. It is not known whether Rutan continues to advise the DSO on the LALEE, which is somewhat larger–approximately the wingspan and fuselage length of a Boeing 737, and with an mtow of about 15 tons. Considering that Singapore has never demonstrated any capability to manufacture a plane, least of all a very high endurance plane design in which Scaled Composites has a very high expertise in, the loss of his help is a great loss, especially considering his Scaled's ability to test a proof-of-concept prototype within short time and budget limitations.
Like Scaled's Proteus, LALEE would not be a pure UAV. It is being designed with both manned and unmanned options. It may be that the Singaporeans have decided that it is practically impossible to fly an unmanned vehicle in Singapore’s restricted airspace, at least for the foreseeable future. Unlike the Global Hawk, Predator-B and U-2, which rule today’s high-altitude skies, the LALEE is a twin-boom, twin-engine design with a 26-foot-long payload pod. The two powerplants are for redundancy, but also to provide increased electrical power to the sensors. The sensor payloads would presumably be modular and interchangeable, as they are on the Global Hawk and the U-2.
At least three LALEE air vehicle configurations have been developed, and at least one with the support of Scaled Composites. The designs have close parallels to the general arrangement of the Scaled Composites White Knight and Global Flyer aircraft, including the use of twin outboard nacelles supporting separate tail structures. The proposed LALEE and Global Flyer wing structures appear near identical. One of the LALEE configurations, apparently designated AA15T, replicates the White Knight engine arrangement with two jet engines located directly above the wing root. However, unlike White Knight it has the fuselage suspended beneath the wing. That version also has a large satellite antenna blister located above the fuselage behind the aircraft nose.
Two other configurations — apparently designated MO.6 and MO.65 — have a suspended fuselage and wing arrangement similar to Global Flyer, but with twin engines mounted high on the rear fuselage. All three configurations have T-tail planes which mirror White Knight. Tan said that the adoption of a two engine design was driven by reliability requirements. Notional interior layout data released by Singapore Technologies Aerospace shows that the LALEE would be capable of carrying a two person crew if required. This may point to a desire to be able to use crews to ferry the aircraft and to allow training operations in Singaporean airspace in the absence of standing international policy on UAV integration in non-segregated airspace.
Population: not yet built
Crew/passengers: optionally manned
After the US and Scaled, now Europe and EADS...
The release of details, at AUVSI’s Unmanned
Systems Asia-Pacific 2006 conference in Singapore, comes as the Singaporean
and U.S. Governments have commenced formal talks on a potential purchase
of the Global Hawk high altitude long endurance (HALE) UAV as a solution
for that same requirement. Previous talks with the U.S. government
on a technology partnership foundered over the familiar issue of
source code release. Singapore is now again talking with France about
cooperation on HALE development with a joint study of options just