Ship-launched Orbiter 3 UAV for sea operations

By Arie Egozi

The idea of a UAV carrier is now looking more realistic than before.

Aircraft carriers have proved their affectivity 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 UAV on their ships.

This is happening, and in recent years some Israeli manufacturers of UAV have begun to think of the idea.

Aeronautics, the Israeli UAV manufacturer, is offering the option to operate its Orbiter 3 UAV from navy ships.

The Orbiter 3 has a wingspan 0f 4.2 meters a max takeoff weight of 28kgs 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 three years after its smaller version the Orbiter 2 has been adapted for that mission and is already in operation on Israeli navy’s vessels.

According to Aeronautics, there is a growing demand for the operation of UAV from combat ships. This is in some navies the direct replacement of a deck operated helicopter.

The aerial platforms are needed mainly for early detection of threats.

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.

But as the saying goes “Appetite comes with the eating”, the increased use of medium size and large size UAS and the amazing growth in their capabilities, create an operational demand.

People in the industry envision a dedicated carrier with a deck that will enable large UAV like the Israel aerospace industries (IAI) Heron-1 to take off, probably with assisting systems and also will facilitate the use of unmanned rotorcraft.

So when UAV’s in Israel accumulate more flight hours that manned aircraft the idea of a UAV carrier seems more tangible.

Tal Inbar an Israeli defence expert said that the idea of a UAV carrier makes a lot of sense but the implementation will be complicated.

As reported by Defence industry Europe Israeli company Aeronautics won earlier this week a contract to supply its Orbiter 3 UAV systems to the Greek Ministry of Defence. The agreement is part of the large contract between the Israeli and Greek Ministry of Defence, worth approximately 370 million euros, for the procurement of Rafael’s Spike missiles.

Some years ago, Aeronautics has been acquired by Rafael to offer complete solution of UAV and weapon systems.

As part of the contract, Rafael will provide an advanced solution enabling significant operational advantage to the modern battlefield; While the Orbiter 3 systems detect, recognize and identify (DRI) the target, the Spike missiles, launched from the air, sea, or land can rapidly close the sensor-to-shooter loop, using the “Fire Weaver” C4I system. The rapid Sensor to Shooter process implementing advanced technologies, enables   mission success.

The Orbiter 3 is a small tactical unmanned aerial system and considered to be one of the leading systems in its class worldwide providing superior performance for both defence and HLS applications. Highlights of the Orbiter 3 operational performance includes advanced ISTAR capabilities, runway-independent, long endurance, the capability of carrying various types of payloads, advanced image processing, a small logistical footprint, navigation including in a GPS-denied environment and the ability to withstand harsh weather conditions.

Rafael has vast expertise in adapting systems for use on navy ships.




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