IAF looking into unmanned refueling plane

Sources: The IAFs new UAV, Eitan, which is still classified, could serve in the role.

Defense News reports that the Israel Air Force is considering the development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as unmanned refueling tankers that can haul the fuel up and autonomously deliver it. The magazine quoted the IAF head of procurement who made the comments at conference held by the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzilya.

IAF has not yet made a formal application for a budget for the development of UAVs, but according to military and defense industry sources quoted by Defense News it is likely to do so during 2007. If IAF files a budget request, its multiyear budget could include an initial development budget for new aircraft starting from 2008.

The sources said that the UAV development project would almost certainly be led by Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. (IAI), Israels 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.

According to Defense News, IAI has already begun work on a number of scenarios in which UAVs would refuel one another. We have been preparing for such a requirement, said a senior IAI manager, Aerial refueling will increase the number of operations that be produced from each UAV.

The sources added that the IAFs new UAV, Eitan, the details of which are still classified, could serve as the future aerial refueling tanker. In an issue published in April 2004, the IAI magazine said the Eitan was four times larger than the previous IAI-manufactured UAV, Shoval. The magazine said that Eitan weighed four tons and can carry a payload of 1,800 kg, together a substantial quantity of fuel.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on November 28, 2006

Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2006

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