Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Silent spy: mini-plane skylarks over Mid-East battle zones

Boy-toy gizmos like this one are apt to distract armchair generals from the grind and gore of warfare. They can gather intelligence silently, without being detected, so combat decisions are based on data (The interpretation is not done by robots, however.) These Skylark mini-planes, designed and sold by Elbit defense electonics in Israel, already are in the vanguard of counter-terrorism surveillance. They resemble something a model airplane geek might toy with, but contain sophisticated spyware. Today, in an airshow in Australia, the public gets an up-close look at the latest pilot-less models which a single soldier can get aloft. They land on an inflatable little cushion, making it easier to retrieve them intact. The IDF employed skylark mini-drones over Lebanon during the nameless war last summer, which has yet to receive an official moniker suitable for the gravestones of the 119 soldiers killed.

Check out the wire story on drones:

JERUSALEM (AP) - Pilotless planes small enough for a single soldier to carry and operate are gathering intelligence for U.S.-led forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Israeli manufacturer said Monday.

Elbit Systems, one of Israel's leading defense electronics companies, said its little "Skylark" can cover an area within a range of 6 miles day or night. It is about 7 feet long with a wingspan of nearly 8 feet, the company said.

"Skylark is operational and currently deployed in the global war on terror in Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan," the statement said. It described the Skylark as suited for "close range, beyond-the-next hill, counter-terror missions."

Lt. Col. Matthew McLaughlin of CENTCOM, the American command that handles Iraq and Afghanistan, said the military "would not confirm the use of the drone," but is always looking for aircraft with such capabilities.

Elbit said the Skylark, one of several items of Israeli defense hardware deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be unveiled to the public at the March 20-25 Australian International Airshow.
The Skylark's console is toylike and easy to operate.

No comments: