BlueBird wins Israeli target UAV contract

BlueBird has won a contract to supply a target variant of an unmanned air vehicle to the Israeli air force (IAF), to enable it to train its air defence units.

The IAF has selected BlueBird’s ThunderB after it completed a series of test flights in which it reached a speed of 150km/h (81kt) and a ceiling of 15,000ft.

The target version of the ThunderB will carry a simple optical payload.

Regional militants have attempted to enter Israeli air space using UAVs, with the last such attempt being made on 20 September when an IAF fighter shot down a Hamas UAV over the Gaza coastline.

According to the Israeli defence force, the UAV had been under full surveillance from the moment it took off, and it did not cross into or fly through Israeli air space.

Iran has been involved in an effort to equip militants in Lebanon with armed UAVs, and this is one of the reasons the IAF is simulating attacks by large numbers of armed UAVs to train against.

All attempts to penetrate Israeli airspace so far have involved one UAV or in some cases two.

Intelligence assessments point to the possibility that swarms of UAVs will be used to attempt to enter Israeli airspace.

The IAF is using a simulator to get ready for this, which involves the use of Patriot missiles and various aircraft types to shoot down the armed UAVs before they can hit targets in Israel.

Israeli sources said the threat, especially from Lebanon, could range from radio-controlled UAVs carrying small explosive loads to large UAVs with payloads of hundreds of kilograms.