The line becomes blurred for mini-UAS in Israeli defence forces

The line between operators of mini-unmanned air systems (UAS) in the Israeli defence forces (IDF) has become blurred as the air force has decided to increase the “in-house” use of UAS.

Until recently, the line was clear. Ground forces operate the mini-UAS and the Israeli air force (IAF) the larger, tactical and strategic versions.

In 2009, Elbit’s Skylark 1LE mini-UAV was selected as the IDF’s battalion-level UAS. It has a 2.9m (9.5ft) wingspan, a MTOW of 6kg (13lb) and is launched by hand or rail.

In 2010, Elbit’s Skylark 2 was selected as the infantry’s brigade-level UAS.

The IAF identified a need for its own system that can operate under the clouds and hired the BlueBird SpyLite mini-UAV for its missions. Recently, the IAF decided to increase the autonomous use of mini-UAS and selected Aeronautics’ Orbiter.

“The need for an integral capability to see what is going on in cloudy conditions in low altitudes resulted in the decision,” an Israeli source said.

The development is natural in a country that has developed some of the most advanced UAS. The extensive use of these creates new needs and what looked logical a year ago in the split between users suddenly needs to be changed.

This will continue as more UAS are introduced into service in the air force, ground forces and navy.

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