TEL AVIV — Israel’s new Panther vertical takeoff and landing unmanned tiltrotor aircraft is one of the latest products emerging from the classified projects section of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
The UAV was developed by IAI’s Malat division, which has been looking at new designs to fill some of the operational gaps between the company’s largest, longest-range Heron TP UAV — now in operation with the Israeli Air Force — and its smallest 0.5-kg. (1.1-lb.) Mosquito UAV with a 30-40 min. flight time.
“In between we have something very new — a [design that] can take off and land on grass, ice or desert,” says Tommy Silberring, general manager of Malat’s military aircraft group. “The idea is to take off and land without a parachute or crash cushion.”
The principal features of the aircraft are tiltrotor engines that allow pinpoint takeoffs and landings or, if desired, conventional landing and takeoff operations. It also has automatic navigation to targets of interest and day/night cameras.
An intriguing option is the Panther’s ability to hover or land quietly in enemy territory, conduct surveillance like a ground sensor and then take off again. It also could be operated from ships that need a tactical UAV.
“It is all-electric and we are looking at higher-technology materials and power generation,” says Israel Shemer, assistant general manager for military projects. “We’re minimizing the noise and you will not hear it at its mission altitude.”
The Panther’s wingspan can vary from 2-8 meters (4.5-17.5 ft.) depending on the required mission endurance and the number of motors used. The current six-meter version has two electric motors and fuel cells that provide a 60-km. range and a top speed of 70 kt. It can carry an 8-kg. payload at an altitude of 10,000 ft. for up to 6 hr. It has a two-man, ground-based flight crew and can be assembled and operated in the field.
“We want to replace manned aircraft so we need to make all the mission and maintenance systems automatic so that it only requires one or two people for the whole mission,” Shemer says. “IAI has today a full capability for integrating intelligence gathering, sensors and the platform.
That includes the fusion of intelligence, sensor use and exploitation of data. We are closing the loop and we are the main intelligence provider for the [Israel Defense Forces].
“We can provide a full sensor suite,” Shemer continues. “Users can ask for the vehicle to identify particular types of target, to get data to specific organizations and to provide analyses of certain data. We can put it all together with this vehicle.”