Warplanes: Skylark 3.0


June 20, 2017: Israel announced that it was adding the new Skylark 3 to units who have long used the Skylark 1 long for border patrol duty. The Skylark 3 entered service in early 2016 and has proved capable of handling border patrol duties, where UAVs are often fired on or subject to electronic attack.

The success of earlier Skylark 1 led to Skylark 2 and now the Skylark 3 which is a 45 kg (99 pound) UAV with 10 kg (22 pound) payload, an electric motor and an endurance of six hours. Skylark 3 has much better sensors and communications than earlier models yet uses the same ground control system as Skylark 1. In fact an operator can operate a Skylark 1 and 3 from the same ground controller or two of either. Skylark 3 is launched via a vehicle mounted catapult and can operate up to a hundred kilometers from the ground station.

Skylark 3 is basically 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 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.




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