For nearly a decade, the South African Air Force (SAAF) relied on the "Seeker" tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) line to fulfill a critical over-battlefield Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR) role. This system was introduced in 1986 and served into 1996 before being succeeded by more capable, modern designs. Four major variants of the line has appeared since, encompassing the Seeker I, Seeker II, Seeker 200 and Seeker 400. The aircraft remains in service with the forces of Algeria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and is used by South African parks services to combat poaching.
The Seeker (Seeker I model) design is a veteran of the South African Border War (1966-1990), taking part in actions towards that conflict's end.
The Seeker UAV takes on a conventional form and design arrangement as unmanned ISR systems go. A straight, fixed wing mainplane is featured over the slab-sided fuselage and this is mounted near midships. The forward section of the fuselage houses the avionics fit, fuel stores and mission equipment as well as camera and sensors while the rear is primarily reserved for the powerplant which drives a multi-bladed propeller unit in a "pusher" configuration. From the trailing edges of the wing mainplanes emerge slim tailbooms, each mounting vertical fins and these planes are then joined together by a single horizontal surface acting as the aircraft's stabilizer component. The undercarriage is fixed during flight and wheeled for ground-running.
While the Seeker I marked the base introductory model of the series, the Seeker 2 was developed for the export market with new, modern alterations to the operating equipment. The UAV component itself saw its performance improved - particularly in operating ranges and tactical support functionality.
The Seeker 200, one of the newer additions to the line (currently being marketed by Denel), is based in the Seeker II platform and sports a new lower-maintenance engine. It showcases day-night real time reconnaissance capabilities and can search, track, and laser-designate targets from the air as needed. The design is made more modular to better fill various roles in-the-field and the complete Denel system comprises up to six total Seeker 200 UAVs, a Tactical Ground Station (TGS) and all necessary support equipment. The Seeker 200 has a range out to 250 kilometers (through line-of-sight control, range-passing control otherwise) with a back up data link for increased in-air reliability. It can fly up to 18,000 feet within a mission endurance window of 10 hours and holds a payload of up to 40 kilograms (including ELINT - ELectronic INTelligence - packages).
The Seeker 400 follows the Seeker 200 as an offshoot of the Seeker II product and is also currently marketed by Denel. The mission payload has been increased to 100 kilograms and endurance is now out to 16 hours at altitudes reaching up to 18,000 feet. An autonomous flight capability is there alongside the manual pilot function and it is possible to air-transport this variant in the belly of two Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft (or similar).
At least ten Seeker II models were delivered to the Algerian Air Force at the end of the 1990s. Eleven were shipped to the UAE for its Air Force from 1996 to 2010.