Elbit Systems’ Hermes 900 UAV 370 .
(photo credit: Elbit Systems)
It has been seen in public, filmed by Palestinians in Gaza and displayed at international air shows.
What is it? According to foreign reports, the IDF uses armed unmanned aerial vehicles to attack targets in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians even have a name for it – Waziz – a reference to the buzzing sound the UAVs make as they fly over the Gaza Strip.
While Jerusalem does not admit to possessing armed UAVs, it has been reported in the rest of the world that Israel has been using them for nearly a decade.
In 2006, for example, there were a number of reports regarding the use of armed UAVs in the Second Lebanon War against Hezbollah targets. One article speculated that the missiles fired by the UAVs were from the Spike family, manufactured by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
Rafael has publicly pushed Spike as a weapons option for UAV. At the Paris Air Show in 2005, for example, Sagem – a leading French defense contractor – displayed its Sperwer UAV armed with a Spike missile.
Another example was displayed at the DSEI defense expo in London in 2011 when Thales suspended from the ceiling a Watchkeeper UAV with two missiles hanging from its wings. The Watchkeeper is used by the British Army and is based on Elbit Systems’ Hermes 450, which is also in extensive use in the Israel Air Force. Some of the drones are also operated by the IDF’s Artillery Corps.
In 2009, on the sidelines of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, there were reports that Israeli drones had flown to Sudan where they attacked a truck convoy carrying weapons – including long-range Iranian missiles – on its way to resupply Hamas forces.
The advantage of using armed UAVs is quite obvious – no risk to pilots, a smaller radar signature due to the smaller size of the aircraft in comparison to a standard fighter jet and the ability to fire small missiles that are suitable for targeted killings with limited collateral damage.
Israel is a world leader in the development of UAVs.
In 2010, Israeli companies sold $1 billion worth of UAVs and associated equipment around the world, and five different NATO countries – Germany, Australia, Spain, France and Canada – were flying Israeli-made drones in Afghanistan.
In the IAF, UAVs make up around a third of the force’s overall annual flight hours.
It also produces a couple hundred hours of visual intelligence on a daily basis, which then have to be processed and cataloged.