Watch: IDF’s Skylark UAV in action

The Skylark’s small size, lightweight and portability make it an effective tool for the IDF (Zahal)

Date: 26/01/2012, 9:54 AM     Author: IDF (Zahal) Website

A combat team opens the bag and takes out the first plane. Then a second, and then a third. Another soldier procures the ground antenna and the computer display from his bag, which will control the UAV and display reconnaissance on the hostile village. Four soldiers have just deployed a miniature intelligence aircraft in enemy territory.

Ten minutes after reaching their position, the squad already has a UAV hovering silently between the green hills of Ramot Menashe, simulating Lebanese territory, under January’s heavy grey skies. The soldiers are at the end of their training, and already stand far beyond the imaginary border. In the nearby village of Elyakim, other soldiers pretend to be the Hezbollah operatives they are keeping an eye on via their UAV. This is the final exercise before becoming an operational squad.

“Our goal and “Skylark’s” goal, is to provide tactical information and photographs of the field to infantry commanders. Our tools fill the intelligence gap between reconnaissance efforts of larger planes. Skylark can fly beneath clouds, even in this weather,” explains the company commander of the course, Capt. Aviv, against the howling wind. “We can see what no one else can see. Skylark can see over the next hill for the fighters.”

Watch: IDF’s Skylark UAV in action

When the soldiers finish their course, their squad will join different units for various tasks. “One day it’s the 13th battalion, the next it’s tanks, then paratroopers. Our team is a brother in arms to every battalion, going in with them and fighting with them without distinction. You have to constantly adapt yourself to new tasks, each with a different character. You have to accompany a force and make sure their path is clear, guarantee that there is no one around the corner, track the movement of terrorists who can plant explosives in the road and get a photo ID on them. The tactical intelligence we have delivered has thwarted a lot of terrorist activity, from stone-throwing to attacks.

After the first couple minutes of testing the wind in the air, the squad begins navigating the complex coded maps and leading the UAV towards its next goal, the village. Each soldier knows how to take on every role in the team – the person who launches could be manning the computer next time, it’s all up to the officer. The battalion commander responsible for the squad follows the entire training exercise with a high-tech watch that delivers the images from the plane, giving him all the information he needs.  He knows what’s over the next ridge and what lies two or three miles down the road.

Despite the heavy winds, the UAV performs reconnaissance for more than half an hour. When the team decides to land the craft, it moves in wide circles and flies over the hill to the soldiers’ location.  After a few minutes you can hear the buzz of the UAV in the air, and shortly afterwards the craft lands in the wet grass with the assistance of an airbag. Shortly after, they will be able to insert a new battery in the plane and start a whole new mission (during the course, the soldiers are trained to carry half of their body weight).  However, now the soldiers store all the equipment within minutes and begin moving again.

Watch: IDF’s Skylark UAV in action

“This is a tool that is cheap to maintain with a very strong encryption that doesn’t need a landing strip,” says the company commander. “These advantages come with the most important thing – the huge amount of operational success in each region of the country. Whoever tries to harm our troops, wherever- we see it. We’re flying alongside the troops and understand their operations, allowing us to contribute more to the operation, and the contribution comes right then and there, and on a daily basis. Since the first operational service of seven squads in Operation Cast Lead, the force has grown immensely. Today, there is no operational activity that we are not a part of.”