The micro- and mini-UAS “boom”

In the early days of Israel (only 64 years ago) oranges made up the bulk of the country’s exports, then it was polished diamonds, then came the hi-tech products.

Now the next export “boom” is likely to be micro- and mini-unmanned air systems (UAS).

In spite of the fact that many countries have been developing UAS, Israeli companies still manufacture some of the most advanced samples.

Some are still – and will be for many years to come – on the highly classified  list, guarded by the huge security apparatus of the country.

Israeli companies manufacture both tactical UAS and strategic types. They also develop UAS for special forces, and in recent years there is a growing trend that can be summed up by a statement like “a UAS for every soldier”.

The current doctrine used by the Israeli defence forces (IDF) is that a ground force has to keep a continuous presence in the defined area, and this is being achieved with a great number of micro- and mini-UAS that can peep over or around the hill.

This trend has brought many mini-UAS to the infantry units of the IDF – and there is no doubt that some countries are following their example.

One example is India, which is about to purchase a record number of mini- and micro-UAS for its air force and the army’s northern command.

Two immediate competitions are aimed at selecting 100 micro-UAS systems for the Indian air force and 20 mini-UAS for the army’s northern command.

The companies that win the competitions will be asked to transfer at least 30% of the production to India.

But this is only the beginning. Israeli sources say that in the coming three years the Indian defence establishment will issue five additional tenders for the purchase of a total of 600 mini-UAS systems for the Indian infantry, artillery, air force and federal police units.

These contracts are valued at $1.25 billion, and production will have to be only in India.

At least two Israeli companies will participate in the planned competitions – Elbit Systems will compete with its SkyLark series UAS, while BlueBird will offer its SpyLite.

So, as I mentioned, these small unmanned platforms are becoming an export hit – and we can  expect more designs with special payloads to match.

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