17 August 2010
Boom Time Expected For Israeli Military UAVs
By David A. Fulghum
Aviation Week

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=defense&id=news/ asd/2010/08/17/01.xml&headline=Boom%20Time%20Expected%20For%20Israeli%20 Military%20UAVs

HAIFA and TEL AVIV — Israel’s military has always generated unique and very specialized needs, from tanks to electronic warfare to combat aircraft. Now that effort will be focused on its unmanned aircraft fleet.

The opinion appears embedded in Tel Aviv that the advantages of cost, range, endurance and less danger to aircrews will push heavy and sustained spending on autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle designs.

“[UAVs] are the future and will play a major role in asymmetric warfare [against stateless and military insurgent groups],” says Yair Shamir, chairman of the board for Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). “The primary challenge is the price. It needs to be expendable.”

Joseph Ackerman, CEO of Elbit — Israel’s largest publicly traded defense firm — sees a similar demand for relatively small, inexpensive products. The answer, he says, is a Sears & Roebuck operation where most of the needed technologies are already in house and can be quickly assembled into a unique product.

Several concepts will define IAI’s efforts in the unmanned aviation world:

• Cyber- and electronic warfare from UAVs is considered a great opportunity. These digitally based capabilities will be shaped around what is available in the commercial arena.

• In analyzing customer needs for UAVs, IAI leaders say quantity is seen as the primary consideration. Design goals will be how low-cost designs can support each other. They will not be identical and will take on many different tasks. There are to be both master and slave versions of these UAVs.

• Active electronically scanned array (AESA) sensors will be essential for unmanned platforms. UAVs are considered a natural for AESA and its ability to find small targets and differentiate among them.

• IAI is actively working on several new UAV platforms. Some are similar to what is already in service, but they will be cheaper, lighter and stealthy.

“Our strategy is to build a range of UAVs up to 1.1 tons with the communications, sensors and intelligence payloads that let them do all the necessary missions at long distances,” Ackerman says.

There are trends that Elbit has identified.

  • There is no need for jet engines. Endurance and low loiter speed is more important.
  • In a few years, 40% of the air missions will be conducted by UAVs.
  • Removing the pilot means less operator training, fewer countermeasures and elimination of aircrew losses. That lowers UAV costs to 5%-10% of an F-16. “Countermeasures [to protect a manned aircraft] cost you billions,” Ackerman says. “With UAVs, you can take risks.”

Moving beyond the boardroom, what do Israeli UAV operators and planners — with more operational experience than almost any other nation — want in next generation UAVs?

“I think the next generation of combat aircraft will be armed UAVs for [conducting] all of the missions done today by jet fighters,” says Tomer Koriat, UAV deputy program manager for Malat’s UAV operator training course (Aerospace DAILY, Aug. 16).

However, one active duty UAV pilot is less enamored of high-performance designs.

“We looked at whether there was interest in a jet [UAV],” says Israeli air force Capt. O. “What we find was a primary interest in a platform with long endurance and minimum indicated airspeed over a given area. We don’t need the ability to get someplace quickly.”

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