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CL-89 Medium Range Drone System: Canadair became involved with battlefield surveillance systems in the late 1950s when the Canadian Army expressed a need for a means of finding targets for its "Honest John" artillery missile. In June 1963, the governments of Canada and Britain agreed to sponsor the design, development, test and evaluation of the CL-89, a medium range drone system based on studies Canadair had done on target drones for Sparrow missile testing. West Germany joined the program later.
The CL-89 system's key component was a small drone 2.4 m (8 ft.) long and 33 cm (13 in.) in diameter carrying an optical sensor-a camera capable of photographing from horizon to horizon, and an infrared linescan sensor.
Fired by a rocket booster from a truck-mounted launcher, the drone flew a pre-programmed course, taking photographs or infrared images at preset intervals. Its mission completed, it homed to a radio beacon and was lowered to the ground by parachute. Large landing bags inflated automatically during descent to prevent it from being damaged on impact. Each drone was designed to survive 10 flights with only unit-level repair (some drones survived 40 flights).
The drone was a difficult target for the enemy. It flew at high subsonic speed, its noise and heat emissions were low, and its flight was pre-programmed and could not be jammed. Not only was it hard to see, it was very hard to shoot down.
The first drone flew in March 1964 and the first system entered service with the West German Army in 1972. As the first unmanned surveillance system to enter service with NATO, it established Canadair as a world leader in surveillance drone technology.
By the time production ended in 1983, Canadair had supplied over 500 drones to Britain, West Germany, France and Italy. The British Army used the CL-89 during the Gulf War, making some 70 flights over enemy lines with outstanding results.
CL-289 Long Range Drone System: Canadair won the largest defence export order ever won by a Canadian company when, on November 25, 1987, Canada, West Germany and France signed a $411 million contract to provide the German and French armies with CL-289 systems consisting of drone vehicles and launchers. The production program was a joint effort involving Canadair, Dornier GmbH of Germany and Socit Anonyme de Tlcommunications (SAT) of France. As prime contractor with overall responsibility as system manager, Canadair built and tested the aft portion of the drones, the wings and the launch pedestals. Dornier built the balance of the drone and elements of ground support equipment and provided system integration and testing for the German Army. SAT supplied the infrared linescan sensor and data link.
The CL-289 is an advanced version of the CL-89, the major differences being that the 289 is larger, faster, has a greater range, carries both photographic and infrared linescan sensors and has a data link which enables it to send infrared images to a ground station while in flight. It also has a more accurate doppler navigation system and a quasi terrain-following capability.
Canadair shipped its first CL-289 component to Germany in December 1988 and the system officially entered Germany Army service on November 29, 1990. By late 1994, Canadair had completed delivery of an order for $8 million of spare parts and was working on a follow-on contract.
On December 2, 1998, Bombardier revealed that the armies of France and Germany were using the CL-289 on operations in Bosnia.
CL-227 Unmanned Air Vehicle: The CL-227 Sentinel program is an example of innovative technology in research and development at Canadair. The system has been developed to provide aerial surveillance using a small remotely controlled, unmanned, helicopter-like air vehicle which carries cameras and similar night vision devices. It is the world's most advanced vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) system of this type.
The concept dates back to the late 1960s; however, it was only in the late 1970s that hardware was built. The phase 3 vehicles are examples of the sophisticated technology, having flown distances of 60 kilometres (37.5mi) from the "pilot" sitting on the ground, as well as from ships operating in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The air vehicle comprises an upper module housing an engine, a central propeller section and a lower module to carry its camera or sensor payload. The most advanced versions of the Sentinel have been built in two versions and flown from both land and off ship.