Israel's defence ministry has awarded Elbit Systems an initial contract worth around $40 million to supply Skylark 1 LE unmanned air vehicles to equip the nation's ground force battalions.

Confirmed by the manufacturer on 26 January, the deal covers the delivery of an undisclosed number of air vehicles "over the next few years", plus personnel training and logistics support. Options on additional systems could take the contract's value to $100 million.

Elbit was announced the winner of Israel's so-called "over-the-hill" UAV requirement in December 2008, following a contest with Aeronautics Defense Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael. Its Skylark 1 LE design has a 2.9m (9.5ft) wingspan, 3h endurance and a mission radius of 15km (8.1nm).

 Skylark 1 LE
© Elbit Systems

Earlier variants of the mini UAV, which produces very low noise emissions due to its electric propulsion system, were employed by the Israeli defence forces during the recent Operation "Cast Lead" mounted against Hamas militants in Gaza. The UAVs were used in "gathering vital intelligence and enhancing collaboration and connectivity between the different operating forces", says Elbit.

Source: Flight International