Skunk Works, Butterflies and more

In the past, “Skunk Works” was connected to the design of secret, very advanced fighter aircraft by Lockheed Martin. The SR-71, F-22 and others were designed in these secret laboratories before they reached the open assembly lines. These days “Skunk Works” – at least in Israel – is mostly connected to new generations of unmanned aerial systems (UAS)

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) unveiled the prototype of its “Butterfly” UAS at the first day of the AUVSI conference in Tel-Aviv.

The miniature UAS imitates the motions of a butterfly’s wings. It is 20cm long and weighs 12 grams. It flies by flapping its four wings.

The prototype is part of an overall effort to develop covert miniature UAS for special forces. IAI plans to offer a line of miniature UAS equipped with different payloads.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. We can assume that after 40 years of operational use of different types of UAS in Israel, the industry will on one hand continue to develop the “normal” types in different variations, and at the same time look to “exotic” designs. The Butterfly is only one example – and probably not the most advanced one.

What are the aims of this classified effort? Again, only assumptions can be used here – so, I will use them. Very long endurance, stealth and “combined operations”, where the UAS will function in “herds”.

As for the systems developed by “Skunk Works”, we will see them in the open years from now, maybe.

Some will be kept under wraps for a long, long time, until they are needed to perform a special mission.


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