Finland to Field Israeli Orbiter UAVs
Flight International reports that Finland has picked Aeronautics Defence Systems’ Orbiter 2 UAV as its future tactical UAV, beating BlueBird’s SkyLite B for a likely EUR 23 million, 55-system contract. The contract signing is expected soon, and once that happens, Finland will join its Baltic Sea neighbor Poland as an Orbiter UAV customer.
Despite their small size and weight of under 10 kg, both systems require a vehicle-towed or mounted catapult for launch, and use parachute recovery. They offer similar performance ranges just above the mini-UAV class, with endurance of around 3.5 hours, and payloads that involve just a small surveillance and laser designation turret. A slightly larger Orbiter 3 variant is available that would have doubled endurance to 7 hours, and increased control range to over 100 km, but Finland appears not to have picked it. BlueBird touted the Skylite’s high-wind, all-weather capability, while the Orbiter can extend its operating control range to 80 km using ground data terminals. In either case, Finland is picking a small UAV with limited range and capabilities, in exchange for higher numbers at relatively low cost. Given the country’s dispersed defense doctrine, it’s a choice that makes military as well as financial sense.