An Israeli air force drone is seen flying over Gaza as seen from the northern Gaza strip border.
(photo credit: COURTESY MODAN)
The IDF, in recent days, revealed it is running a new drone unit in the Artillery Corps. The unit, the first of its kind, operates the tactical Hermes 450 drone from within the Ground Forces.
During a recent drill in the North, the unit practiced working together with ground units by collecting advanced visual intelligence and broadcasting a live image of the battlefield to the divisions and brigades below.
The unit also is tasked with creating faster sensor-to-shooter cycles for the destruction of ground-based enemy targets. This is accomplished by placing drone operators in mobile-command stations that are near the theater of combat, and who report to commanders on targets discovered in real time, enabling the relevant unit to fire upon them.
The unit’s officers train at the Artillery Corps Training Center in Shivta, near Mitzpe Ramon. They can enter the combat zone with maneuvering ground forces and deploy within just a few kilometers of the units in the heart of enemy territory.
“Although most of our activities are carried out from the unit’s base, in some scenarios we are required to head to the field with our tools to fully exploit our capabilities, the commander of the unit,” Lt.-Col. Haim (full name withheld) told the official IDF website.
“This also allows closer cooperation with ground forces, which we assist from above,” he said. “Our soldiers learn how to think like an infantry soldier. We constitute a link between the squadron commander and the [infantry] battalion commander. When I talk to the commander of the Gaza territorial division, we speak in the same ‘language,’” the commander said.
Until the creation of the unit, the only unmanned aerial platform operated by ground forces was the Sky Rider drone, which provides high-quality images from an electro-optic camera, as well as images from a heat-sensitive infrared camera during nocturnal intelligence missions.
Sky Rider is launched from a sling and, as it gains altitude, quickly becomes inaudible and invisible thanks to its electrical engine and small size. When the time comes to land, the drone decreases in altitude, inflates an air bag and drops to the ground.
The newest drone unit in the ground forces went into action during Operation Protective Edge over Gaza last summer and helped the IDF target rocket and mortar launchers.
The unit also provided close air support to ground forces when they entered the Gaza Strip through aerial intelligence broadcasts. The unit discovered seven Hamas tunnel entrances during the conflict.