The Slovakian Army's 5th Special Forces Regiment (5. Pluk Specialneho Urcenia: 5.PSU) has taken into service Elbit Systems' Skylark I-LEX unmanned aircraft system (UAS).
The Zilina-based unit received two Skylark I-LE systems in late 2008, and the new system will replace those in providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to the special forces, who will be the only unit in the Slovakian Armed Forces to have such a capability.
Although the I-LE and I-LEX platforms feature a similar design form, the latter has an extended range over the I-LE - up to 40 km as opposed to 20 km of the earlier variant - and a number of other improvements have been introduced in the I-LEX, including a more advanced and robust datalink; it has also been tested and qualified for harsher environmental standards and provides higher reliability, as well as featuring a more advanced navigation system.
The Skylark I-LEX UAS features three air vehicles, two colour charge-coupled device day cameras, and one un-cooled bolometric night camera. It is also equipped with a laser designator and has the potential to carry a range of other payloads, such as a communications relay system. The camera units are housed in a stabilised gimbal.
The aircraft has a ceiling of 15,000 ft and an endurance of three hours, and the crew is able to control two aircraft simultaneously; a complete mission profile - including landing - can be conducted autonomously. The aircraft is launched by hand or a bungee device and is recovered via a belly landing with an airbag.
The system is operated by a two-person crew, and two aircraft and the control equipment can be carried in two rucksacks.
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