The Israeli air force (IAF) objected, but now it’s a fact – Israeli ground forces will soon have more types of small unmanned air systems (UAS).
The operational demand surprised the IAF – it was obvious until then that UAS are and will be exclusively in its “yard”.
However, the operational burden on the IAF’s UAS squadrons and the different types of UAS needed by the forces on the ground began the revolution – or rather, evolution.
Currently, ground units of the Israeli defence forces (IDF) are involved a process aimed at increasing the use of mini-UAS for a variety of missions.
Currently, the IDF’s artillery and intelligence units are using the Elbit Systems SkyLark-1LE. This system has been upgraded in recent months to meet evolving operational requirements. The upgraded version is already in use.
An Israeli source says the system was upgraded according to feedback from users in the field. It was not a complete upgrade, but changes were made to make it more efficient.
The Skylark-1 LE is designed for data collection and target marking at mission ranges exceeding 32nm (60km). The type was selected and deployed as the IDF’s battalion-level UAS, and has also been delivered to more than 20 countries worldwide.
The system is man-portable and can be deployed by dismounted teams or in vehicle-based mobilisation/deployment configurations – including on-the-move operation. An attempt to introduce a larger version was not successful, and at this stage the existing UAS is being upgraded.
Also, it now seems Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has joined the race for the ground forces’ UAS requirement.
This happened far from Israel, when Stark Aerospace – a subsidiary of IAI North America – unveiled its ArrowLite system. This small UAS has been developed primarily for the US market.
Some 13 systems – consisting of 39 air vehicles, associated ground support equipment and spares – have been delivered to date.
ArrowLite provides the tactical operator with a rapidly deployable, lightweight (under 6.5lb) aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability. The unit can be quickly assembled and hand-launched in 60-90s after removal from a waterproof transport carry case. It also features a day/night thermal 2-axis stabilised payload with a laser illuminator and datalink.
The company says the UAS can achieve flight distances of 3-8nm on the datalink, reach dash speeds up to 55kt (101km/h) and is capable of sustaining flight for up to 2.75h (launch to landing).
ArrowLite can also survive rugged environmental conditions and support a variety of missions.
It won’t be long before a version of the ArrowLite is tested by the IDF’s ground forces. The UAS was designed for American operational requirements, but with some alterations it can serve Israeli ground forces. When the need is growing every day, this is a guaranteed process.