Naval Air: One For The Little Guys


September 5, 2016: In mid-2016 Israel revealed that it had developed a maritime version (Skylark C) of its Skylark 1 LE UAV. This was done by making Skylark 1 waterproof so that it could land via a parachute and be picked up and readied (via a fresh battery) for another sortie within 15 minutes. Like other versions of Skylark the Skylark C is launched using a small catapult and meant for use by small warships or patrol boats and carries a heat sensing sensor optimized for use over water. With a range of 30 kilometers and the ability to stay aloft for three hours at a time, the Skylark C extends the view of small craft beyond the horizon (about 24 kilometers for small craft) and allows the sailors to get a closer look at something more quickly because otherwise you have to move the patrol boat closer.

Meanwhile there are already other versions of Skylark available. In early 2016 the Israeli manufacturer introduced the Skylark 3, a 45 kg (99 pound) UAV with 10 kg (22 pound) payload, an electric motor and an endurance of six hours. It is launched via a vehicle mounted catapult and can operate up to a hundred kilometers from the ground station. Skylark 3 is an improved Skylark 2, which entered service in 2007 and was a little smaller and had less range (60 kilometers from the base station). Like Skylark 2, Skylark 3 is intended for use by brigades and divisions.

Skylark has served the Israeli military well, which makes it easier to get export sales. In 2008, after four years of evaluation and further development, the Israeli Army adopted the Skylark 1 LE UAV as standard equipment for its combat battalions. While Skylark began in 2006 as a slightly larger rival for the popular U.S. Raven (a 2 kg/4.3 pound aircraft with one hour endurance), the Israelis found that a slightly larger UAV (6.8 kg/15 pounds, three hours endurance) fit the needs of battalion and company commanders better. Each Skylark 1 system consists of three aircraft, three vidcams (two day, one night) and a ground control unit (a laptop and some radio gear). The Skylark 1 can fly as high as 450 meters (1,500 feet) and operate up to 30 kilometers from the operator.

Like the Raven, Skylark 1 is battery operated, and very quiet. It is launched with an elastic cord (a bungee cord will do), and lands with the help of a reusable airbag. The army bought several hundred systems, with each battalion getting two or more systems. Skylark had already been exported to countries that have used the UAV in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several Israeli police and paramilitary organizations have also been using Skylark over the past four years, and the system has proved very useful for counter-terror operations.

The success of Skylark 1 led to Skylark 2 and Skylark 3.


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