Elbit, GD create UAS Dynamics

Published 18 May 2009

The military UAV market is becoming more lucrative; Elbit, maker of the popular Skylark and Hermes UAV lines, create a joint venture with General Dynamics to sell UAVs based on Elbit’s designs; company intends to compete with General Atomics’ Predator

One of the major differences between the aircraft market and the UAV market is the relatively low entry cost into the latter. DID notes that this low entry cost is spurring manufacturers around the world to enter — in some cases, re-enter — the military UAV market as prime contractors. In the United States we have seen a similar trend. For example, former aviation powerhouses Northrop and Grumman have a fleet of high-end UAVs, and Raytheon has just unveiled the Killer Bee 4, which will become a full-spectrum UAV family.

DID writes that even former fighter manufacturer General Dynamics is stepping back in, via a partnership between Elbit Systems of America and General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products. UAS Dynamics, LLC is a 50/50 joint venture located in Fort Mill, South Carolina. General Dynamics’ Doug Tobiassen, formerly the senior director of program management for advanced programs at General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products, will be its president. Paul Keller, currently at Elbit Systems of America, will serve as the executive vice president of UAS Dynamics and brings thirty years of experience to his position.

The firm will sell UAVs based on Elbit’s widely exported Skylark and Hermes designs to U.S. government customers. This will give them a full line of UAS (unmanned aerial system) offerings, beginning with the popular Skylark family. It includes the hand-launched Skylark I mini-UAV and the larger, catapult-launched Skylark II. Either or both may find themselves competing against Boeing’s ScanEagle and Raytheon’s KillerBee for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (STUAS)/Tier II program.

The Hermes 180 tactical UAV is the low end of Elbit’s runway-launched offerings, though catapult-launch capability has been demonstrated up to the Hermes 450. The larger, widely exported Hermes 450 is Elbit’s most significant UAS. It serves as Britain’s Watchkeeper medium UAV via a European joint venture with Thales, and with a number of export customers around the world including with the U.S. DHS. DID reports that the new Hermes 900 will give UAS Dynamics an offering which is fully competitive with General Atomics’ Predator system as a division-level UAV, but falls short of the MQ-9 Reaper’s payload capabilities.