Sources in the Israeli defence companies expect the first contracts for their armed UAVs in early 2023. All these fast moving development occur after the Israeli ministry of defence lifted a 20 years ban on admitting that Israel is using these weapon systems.
The official ban was in place in spite of the fact that the armed UAV’s have been photographed over Gaza and Lebanon.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) purchased an armed UAV in 1990. This was the Elbit systems Hermes 450 dubbed “zik” (spark).
This armed UAV has since been used extensively mainly in Gaza to perform pinpoint attacks on terror targets. It has also been used in Lebanon against Hezbollah targets.
But the demand grew as the armed UAVs proved their efficiency and the IAF acquired other types of armed UAVs – the Hermes 900 and the Heron TP made by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
The Israeli defence companies, namely Rafael and IAI developed special weapon systems for the IAF ‘s armed UAVs. Details of these weapon systems are still highly classified.
The Israeli censors have suppressed any reports of the armed UAVs for the past several years. Recently, the industry exerted pressure on the government due to the use of armed UAVs in the Ukraine war, and the gag order was eventually lifted.
Israeli defence sources said recently that the removal of the gag order may affect the plan of the German air force to arm its leased IAI Heron-TP UAVs with missiles. Some years ago the Germans have signed a contract for the lease of a number of the IAI’s Heron-TP UAVs for use overseas.
Immediately after the signing of the contract, a debate started in the political arena in Germany related to the plan to arm these long endurance UAVs.
Now according to Israeli sources it seems that the plan to arm the Israeli made UAVs is again “on the table”
According to Israeli sources, the IAF has developed a doctrine of using its armed UAVs in different scenarios. This includes using formations and different weapon systems.
The Israeli sources said that the UAV’s armed with the missiles are equipped with very advanced payloads that help detect the targets “under very severe” conditions.
As the Heron TP is a long endurance, big UAV it can carry a mix of weapon systems to perform different missions.