After a better than successful trial period, the Israeli Navy is expected to incorporate the Enhanced version of Protector unmanned watercraft into operational duties.
By Yoav Zitun
The Navy is set to introduce new experimental unmanned watercraft which completed a trial period after two and half years. The Navy is to receive Protectors and more advanced watercraft from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
A senior Navy officer told Ynet that the Navy expressed confidence in the unmanned watercraft, which played a major role in defensive missions on the Gaza coast in the past two years, and the enhancements include reaching more distant destinations and operating for longer periods of time.
Improvements will also include capabilities to activate different commands such as water cannons for missions of removing unarmed hostile elements, such as fishermen refusing to move away from prohibited boating areas or flotilla protesters.
About 10 months ago, Rafael unveiled a prototype of the new adaptation of the Protector, which has two 11-meter-long engines, compared to the earlier craft that has one nine-meter-long engine. Today, the Rafael Protectors are active in a few places around the world, and play a series of tasks: Exploring oceans, intercepting enemy forces, protecting ports, neutralizing mines, performing anti-submarine combat and anti-aircraft combat, among others.
“The two engines will increase the survival and performing abilities of the watercraft at high seas and in difficult weather, and if one engine stops working at sea, it wouldn’t be necessary to send a repair team like today,” the Navy officer explained, “it is a watercraft that could be in complex and dangerous places without endangering human lives, and our goal is that eventually unmanned watercraft would replace small manned watercraft for defensive missions. The new craft should arrive within the next year.”
Maj. Gen. Ram Rothberg, head of the Israeli Navy, green-lighted the project recently.
In terms of fire, the new Protector, which will be controlled from land, could carry heavier arms than today. Observation systems through optic cameras and electronic warfare will be improved as well.
Meanwhile, the German Federal Ministry of Defense is expected to decide in the next few months whether to purchase the “Eitan” drones from the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), together with German company CDN. Opposing the Israeli “Eitan” are US-made drones, and the Americans are placing great political pressure on Germany to favor their products.
The German Air Force commander visited Israel two months ago, met with Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel and closely examined the “Eitan” drones. Israel hopes this visit gave a significant edge to the IAI’s chances of getting the contract.
View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4381876,00.html