Drones participate in Independence Day flyover for first time

The flyover will take place on Thursday beginning at 9.30 AM from Ramat David Air Base in northern Israel and will pass over dozens of cities and major points in the country.

Israel Aerospace Industry's Heron TP drone (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Israel Aerospace Industry's Heron TP drone
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)

Israeli drones took part in this year’s Independence Day flyover, marking the first time that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) took part in the event.

The two drones that participated were the Heron 1 and Heron TP UAVs built by Israel Aerospace Industries that are flown by the Israel Air Force.

Other than the drones, various other IAF aircraft took part including F-15, F-16 and F-35 fighter jets, Black Hawk and Apache attack helicopters, and refueling and transport aircraft.

The IAF aerobatic team performed aerial displays with “Efroni” planes that passed over Jerusalem, Ezer Weizmann Air Force Base in Ramat David, Tiberias, Haifa beaches, the shores of Tel Aviv, Tel Nof AFB, the shores of Ashdod and the Air Force Museum at Hatzerim Base.

The two drones are key platforms in the IAF.

 Drone technology on display at the MoSAIC Challenge. (credit: Black Box Media) Drone technology on display at the MoSAIC Challenge. (credit: Black Box Media)

The Heron 1 is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone used primarily for strategic reconnaissance and surveillance operations. It is capable of operating for up to 45 hours and can fly at a peak altitude of 35,000 feet.

The Heron TPs have a flight endurance of 40 hours, a maximum take-off weight of 11,685 pounds and a payload of 2,204 pounds. The MALE drones can be used for reconnaissance as well as combat and support roles and can carry air-to-ground missiles to take out hostile targets.

Drones are becoming a more central part of most air forces, with IAF drone squadrons flying about 80% of all IAF flight hours. With four drone squadrons based at Palmahim AFB, 70% of all IAF flight hours take off from the base just south of Tel Aviv.

Drones played a significant and integral part in Operation Guardian of the Walls in May, with most of them taking off from Palmahim AFB. According to data released by the IDF, about 643 missions were flown by drones for a total of 132.6 flight hours during the 11 days of fighting with terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.

The military says that “Israel is a leader in the field of remotely manned aircraft – and the missions of these aircraft are constantly evolving and are complex.”