from the January 2007 issue

Israel may develop aerial-refueling UAVs

The Israel Air Force is considering unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can refuel in midair, and unmanned tankers that can haul the fuel up and autonomously deliver it. Tanker concepts worthy of evaluation include refueling among "like-minded platforms such as a UAV refueling a UAV," or manned aircraft whose speed and altitude are optimized for midair servicing of pilotless fighters according to Brig. Gen. Yohanan Loker.

IAI has already simulated scenarios in which UAVs could autonomously refuel other UAVs. Sources said that the UAV development project is likely to be led by Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. (IAI), Israel's sole provider of aerial refueling capabilities, and a key manufactured of UAV systems. Over recent years, an IAI unit has been converting Boeing 707, C-130 and Ilyushin aircraft into air tankers and equipped dozens of fighter aircraft and helicopters with aerial refueling capability Tanker UAVs would meet Air Force requirements for increasingly multi-mission unmanned aircraft by expanding the number of missions that could be done on the same UAV platform.

Defense and industry sources here said tanker UAVs would ease the burden of controlling so many unmanned platforms without reducing the persistent presence needed to quickly put weapons on a spotted target.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report January 2007

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