JERUSALEM — Israeli firm Xtend will supply hundreds of new Wolverine Gen2 unmanned systems to the U.S. Defense Department as part of a joint government-to-government program with Israel’s Defense Ministry, the company announced Tuesday.
The small drone, which is made in the U.S., “enables operators — even those with no flight experience — to perform extremely precise remote tasks, maneuvers, and actions in complex environments (indoor or outdoor), with minimal training and maintenance,” the company said in a statement.
The new contract is part of a joint research and development program led by the Israeli Directorate of Defense Research and Development at the MoD, in collaboration with the Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate at the Pentagon. Delivery is expected to take place this year.
Xtend previously delivered several dozen Skylord counter-drone systems to the U.S. as part of a pilot program in 2020, and the program saw further success in 2021 with the Skylord Xtender, which was delivered as part of a partnership between the two directorates.
“For us, the meaning of this program is an amazing vote of confidence we got from IMOD and DoD,” said Gadi Bar-Ner, chief business officer of Xtend.
He explained that new technology enables small, quadcopter-style drones to perform more missions as part of a move from analog to digital, and represents the creation of “Swiss Army knife” capabilities for drones; in other words, one small drone can perform multiple tasks and use different applications, much like a smartphone.
This second-generation Wolverine can interact with its environment using a robotic arm for counter-improvised explosive device missions, Bar-Ner said, a task that Wolverine drones have already performed for the Israel Defense Forces.
The company is also developing a payload hub so other capabilities can be plugged into the drone to support, for example, electronic warfare missions and automatic target recognition. The user “can upload [features] like it’s an iPhone … so you use the right app and payload, which is a new capability, and that is disruptive in the drone space because usually drones are tailored for [limited] missions.”
He hopes the drone can be incorporated into the U.S. military’s robotic combat vehicles, and said the company wants to demonstrate the Wolverine to the U.K. and other NATO members.
Xtend, which displayed the Wolverine Gen2 at Modern Day Marine in Quantico, Virginia, this week, would not provide the value of the new contract.
Seth Frantzman has been covering conflict in the Middle East since 2010 as a researcher, analyst and correspondent for different publications. He has experience covering the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is a co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.