Basic psychological principles state that individuals and groups do not like to lose control over something that has been theirs for a long time.
Israeli unmanned air systems (UAS) made by Israeli companies were initially operated only by the Israeli airforce (IAF). The fighter pilots saw some of their missions going to flying robots, but still wanted to keep these machines “at home”.
This held for a while but circumstances – in this case operational demands – have brought change.
The IAF is no longer the sole operator of UAS. The ground forces now have them in different shapes and sizes, and some are highly classified. The navy is in line to use the UAS on its ships.
At this stage the Israeli defence forces (IDF) – mainly the artillery units – are using the upgraded version of the hand-launched Elbit systems SkyLark 1 LE (Sky Rider) UAS. One of these systems was lost on March 11 over Gaza. Indications are that this was because of a technical malfunction.
These hand-launched UAS are being used very extensively over Gaza, mainly to detect preparations for launching rockets into Israel.
The Skylark 1 LE Generation 2 (Block 10) weighs 7kg, and is equipped with an advanced payload. The new model was developed jointly by the IDF’s ground forces weapons department and Elbit Systems.
The upgraded version of this UAS provides the ground units with some technological operational advantages, such as the use of the Skylark’s upgraded cameras. Furthermore, the UAS communications system has been connected to the ground forces’ overall command and control system.
The ground forces’ vision is for every battalion to have an attached Skylark 1LE squad to provide field support. The Skylark unit’s responsibilities are also expected to grow with a significant increase in the use of UAS planned by the ground forces – for a large variety of missions.
Almost every soldier has a personal weapon and now many of them in the field or at sea will also have some kind of UAS at hand. The change is dramatic and ongoing.