Saturday, October 10, 2009

Protector unmanned surface vehicle enters service in Israli Navy


The Israel Navy plans to begin using unmanned naval craft in the coming months for patrols along the Mediterranean coast, senior IDF officers said. Called unmanned surface vehicles, the ships are operated by remote control from a land-based station and are highly maneuverable, allowing them to conduct a wide range of missions, including patrols of the coast, without endangering navy personnel.

One system that the navy has already purchased is the Protector, which was developed by Rafael Advanced Systems Ltd. The navy has also procured a second undisclosed system. The craft can carry a wide variety of payloads, including cameras, sensors and weapons.

Both systems saw action for the first time during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip earlier this year, when the navy deployed the unmanned surface vehicles off Gaza to enforce the sea blockade aimed at stopping weapons shipments. The craft will likely be deployed off the Gaza coast and, if necessary, near the border with Lebanon.

"There are areas that the navy prefers to first enter in an unmanned capacity before a manned capacity," a senior officer said. "We will soon declare both systems operational." And on Monday, Rafael will put the Iron Dome short-range rocket missile defense system on display at the Association of the United States Army defense exhibition opening in Washington.

The air force is currently in the midst of establishing the first battalion that will operate the system once it becomes operational, likely in the middle of next year. Elbit Systems will be displaying its newly-developed Beagle robot. The Beagle can self-navigate, avoid obstacles and climb stairs, and its extendable arm is capable of lifting 2 kg. It can also carry a wide variety of payloads.

Elbit will also be displaying for the first time the Hermes 90 long endurance UAV, which is capable of flying for 18 hours with a range of up to 100 kilometers. The latest model includes a variety of advances allowing it to be launched and recovered without special equipment.

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