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Skylarks dart into Australian inventory

Our Bureau - : Feb 28, 2023 - : 12:48 am

Elbit Systems announced on 7 December 2022 that its Skylark I-LEX small UAV had been procured by the Australian Army.

The Israeli company said these UAVs will ‘enable ADF support to civilian operations for disaster and humanitarian relief’. To this end, the Skylarks are fitted with an electro-optic sensor and automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast (ADS-B) system.

ADS-B provides real-time situational awareness to pilots and air traffic controllers, thus allowing the UAVs to safely fly in wider categories of airspace. This is something that would be important in a disaster relief scenario, for instance.

The Skylark I-LEX has a 40km line-of-sight control range. Without naming customers, Elbit Systems claims ‘dozens’ of customers have selected the Skylark family to date.

Elbit was awarded the sale after a competitive tender involving preview test and evaluation activities. Elbit Systems of Australia will also provide maintenance services for the Skylarks out till 2030.

Paul McLachlan, then Managing Director of Elbit Systems of Australia, commented: ‘Our Skylark I-LEX SUAS+ will reduce the risk to both army and civilian personnel when operating in hazardous environments because of its superior intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.’

The small UAVs were procured via the 9th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, an Australian Army Reserve unit based in Sydney.

This purchase is understood to be a delayed fulfilment of the Small UAS Plus (SUAS+) programme known as Army Minor Project 024.35. The tender had closed on 4 June 2019, and a shortlisted fly-off activity occurred later that year.

At that time, the army stated that it needed up to 17 SUAS+ systems with a life of type of six years. The tender document said the UAV would be issued to army battlegroups, special forces and Regional Force Surveillance Units. It appears that emergency-response scenarios will now be an important duty for the SUAS+ too.


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