MILAN, Italy — The Danish Defence Ministry has issued a multimillion-dollar tender for several small drones intended for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and fire support operations.

The Tenders Electronic Daily, an online version of the Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union that details public procurement efforts on the continent, published last month a detailed contract notice for the purchase of NATO Class 1 small unmanned aerial systems as well as sustainment, support and training. This category of drones generally refers to tactical unit systems weighing more than 15 kilograms (33 pounds).

The main components of the order will consist of a minimum of three drones capable of vertically taking off and landing without the need for a separate system, such as launchers or parachutes. Each drone should feature a synthetic aperture radar and a primary sensor package. The order would also include two ground control stations and all necessary ground equipment.

During the assessment phase, the Defence Ministry will consider as the most important factors the specific drone category and the lowest temperature at which the system can operate and land. The value of the initial purchases are expected to be about $107 million, and the tender will close March 23.

Other outlined technical capabilities include:

  • An on-station time — the ability to maintain an observation position — of at least 8 hours at a range of 90 kilometers (56 miles).
  • The ability to take off at a temperature of minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • The ability to continue an in-flight mission, including landing, in conditions of minus 40 degrees Celsius.
  • The ability to launch and land on ships.
  • The ability to fit in two 10-foot International Organization for Standardization containers for storage.

The drones are intended primarily for national and international ISR missions. Additionally, the online documents stated that each drone is “to be operated from a total of two trucks with ISO containers, making it possible for operators to continually operate one UAV while moving the ground control station from which the drone is operated.”

The Danish military has wanted to increase its unmanned capabilities for several years, specifically to monitor Arctic regions. In 2020, Denmark announced its intention to procure drones, but that notice was terminated. A report from Tenders Electronic Daily shows the decision was made after the Defence Ministry noticed the planned acquisition did not take into account operational needs for the country’s defense.

Denmark previously experimented with several types of smaller drones, but has never possessed larger systems such as the MQ-9 Reaper. Platforms of that size tend to be more costly than smaller variants and require greater infrastructure to operate. As the country has territorial claims in areas around the Faroe Islands and the north of Greenland covering parts of the North Pole, there are few land-based structures from which large drones can land and launch; this could be why the country prefers vertical-takeoff-and-landing platforms.

In 2007, it acquired 12 Raven B small drones from AeroVironment, on which the country relied during operations in Afghanistan. In 2012, Denmark replaced them with Puma AE drones, also produced by the American company, but they were larger and can loiter for longer durations. The country currently does not possess armed variants.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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