Growing interest in armed drones from Israel in Europe

By Arie Egozi

The Israeli Ministry of Defense is still reluctant to approve the export of Israeli-made armed UAVs to a number of European countries that want them. The interest in these very advanced UAVs and the weapon systems they carry culminated after the Israeli Ministry of Defense lifted a 20-year ban on admitting that Israel is using these weapon systems.

The official ban was in place despite the fact that the armed UAVs have been photographed over Gaza and Lebanon.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) first purchased an armed UAV in 1990. This was the Elbit Systems Hermes-450, dubbed “Zik” (spark).

This armed UAV has since been extensively used mainly in Gaza to perform pinpoint attacks on terror targets.

This armed UAV 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 industries, namely Rafael and IAI, developed special weapon systems for the IAF’s armed UAVs.

All these years, the Israeli censors blocked any report of the armed UAVs. Recently, mainly because of the use of armed UAVs in the Ukraine war, the industry put heavy pressure on the ministry, and finally, the gag order was removed.

As reported by Defense Industry Europe, the change of policy, according to Israeli sources, will affect the plan of the German Air Force to arm its leased IAI Heron-TP UAVs with missiles.

Some years ago, the Germans 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 about to be implemented.

According to Israeli sources, the IAF has developed a doctrine of using its armed UAVs in different scenarios. This includes using formations and different missiles.

The Israeli sources said that the UAVs armed with 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.

Israeli sources said that if Israel approves the export of armed UAVs, the weapon systems carried by these UAVs will have to be approved separately.



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