Finland’s Ministry of Defense has selected Israeli company Aeronautics for a 20-year-program to equip, train and support tactical ground forces in the use of the company’s Orbiter II mini UAV.
Under the estimated $31 million contract, the Yavne, Israel-based company will provide up to 45 Orbiter systems, including up to 180 unmanned aircraft.
The contract also obliges Aeronautics, in cooperation with a local partner, to establish an in-country maintenance center in support of the new mini-UAV force.
Aeronautics’ win follows a nearly three-year international competition involving 10 companies, four of them from Israel, as well as extensive field trials of short-listed bidders. All air vehicles, ground stations and supporting elements will be supplied during the next two years, company executives said.
“For us, the Finnish award is like the Hollywood Oscar of mini UAVs,” Danny Eshchar, Aeronautics vice president for marketing and sales, said. “It was a serious and extensive international competition under very tough conditions, and the commitment to this program stretches out over 20 years.”
Eshchar said the company’s Orbiter has been tapped by 14 customer nations and is operational in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The company previously announced that its Orbiter was selected to support so-called over-the-hill intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions by Poland’s special operations forces.
Operated by a two-man team and deployed by foot or vehicle, each electrically-powered Orbiter II UAV has a maximum takeoff weight of 9.5 kilograms. The Orbiter II is designed to operate a range of stabilized payloads at maximum altitudes of 18,000 feet for up to four hours.
“The choice of the Finnish Defense Forces is a commitment for us to keep leading the industry,” said Avi Leumi, Aeronautics president and chief executive. “We are investing many resources to bring the most advanced systems technologically possible today to market, and we intend to keep doing so in the future.”