Israeli experts explore development of dedicated UAV carriers

By Arie Egozi

The dramatic increase in the use of armed UAVs in military conflicts, according to Israeli experts, will expedite the evaluation of the idea to develop a UAV carrier. Aircraft and helicopter carriers are serving big navies in the world. UAVs are currently operated from navy ships per mission. However, the dramatic change in the mode UAVs are being operated has again put the idea of a dedicated UAV maritime carrier on the table in Israel. This is mainly because of first lessons from the Ukraine war and the war in Gaza.


Aircraft carriers have proved their effectiveness in many navies. The same happened with helicopter carriers. These floating air bases have a task in every major military conflict that erupts where nature put seas and oceans. In recent years, navies have come up with an increasing number of operational demands to have UAVs on their ships. This is happening, and in recent years some Israeli manufacturers of UAVs have begun to think of the idea.



Aeronautics, the Israeli drone manufacturer, is offering the option to operate its Orbiter 3 UAS from navy ships. The Orbiter 3 has a wingspan of 4.2 meters, a max takeoff weight of 28 kgs, and an endurance of 7 hours. It carries a 5.5 kg payload. In ground operations, it is launched with a catapult and recovered by a combination of parachute and airbag. On ships, a special net is used to catch it at the end of the mission.

The adaptation of the Orbiter 3 for sea operations comes some years after its smaller version, the Orbiter 2, has been adapted for that mission and is already in operation on Israeli Navy vessels. According to Aeronautics, there is a growing demand for the operation of UAVs from combat ships. In some navies, this is the direct replacement of a deck-operated helicopter. The aerial platforms are needed mainly for early detection of threats. But, as proven in current major conflicts, armed UAVs have become an essential asset.



So far, the UAVs that can operate from ships are the relatively small ones. They usually are launched with some type of catapult and land into a net. With the new capabilities of different types of UAVs developed by Israeli companies, the idea is again being evaluated as a future very important capability.

Sources in the Israeli defense industry envision a dedicated carrier with a deck that will enable “different types” of UAVs to take off. The idea gains momentum when 80% of the total flight hours of the Israeli Air Force are performed by different types of UAVs.



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