Israel's defence industry is working on a networked system that will enable joint operations of unmanned air systems, unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) and unmanned maritime systems (UMS).
While industry sources say the development is a "normal evolution" in the use of unmanned systems, they add that the effort is also directly connected to a decision last week by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to make the air force, navy and ground forces "slimmer" to save money and able to "adapt to the new threats".
While Israel is a leading developer of UAS of all sizes, its industry has also developed a very advanced UGV, the Guardium. Made by G-Nius, a company owned jointly by Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems, it can operate autonomously on and off road, at up to 80km/h. The vehicle can carry a payload of up to 300kg (660lb), including light armour to protect its vital systems. The UGV can carry a wide variety of sensors, including video and thermal cameras, with auto-target acquisition and capture, a sensitive microphone, powerful loudspeakers and two-way radio.
In May 2009, the IDF received a first batch of Guardium vehicles, which are operated along some of Israel's borders.
Two Israeli companies, Rafael and Elbit, have also developed UMS that are operational in Israel and in foreign countries. The best known is the former's Protector, which has recently been upgraded with new and classified systems.
The nation's "small army" plan is based partially on the use of many autonomous systems, and the need is urgent to allow these air, land and sea systems to work together seamlessly.
The companies involved have not released any further details about the networked operating initiative, but it has been described as "massive".