Days after the Israeli military censorship lifted a gag order on the use of armed UAVs by the IAF, some foreign armed forces initiated contact with the Israeli defence companies involved. The gag order had been in place for over 20 years.
Despite the official ban, armed UAVs had been photographed operating over Gaza and Lebanon. However, the gag order has now been removed regarding the operation of Israel’s armed UAVs. The types of weapons carried by these UAVs remain classified.
Tal Inbar, an Israeli defence analyst, told Defence Industry Europe that the policy of the Ministry of Defence seems odd, considering many foreign countries sell large numbers of armed UAVs with a range of weapon systems. ‘There is no vacuum. The Israeli defence industries could double the sales of armed UAVs if they are also allowed to sell the dedicated weapon systems,’ he said.
The Ministry of Defence was reluctant to comment on the policy.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) first purchased an armed UAV in 1990, the Elbit Systems Hermes 450, dubbed ‘Zik’ (Spark). This armed UAV has been used extensively, mainly in Gaza, to perform pinpoint attacks on terror targets and in Lebanon against Hezbollah targets.
In the ongoing conflict with terror organizations in Gaza and Lebanon, the armed UAVs have carried out a large number of strikes, mainly on moving targets, such as teams preparing to launch rockets.
The demand for armed UAVs grew as they proved their efficiency, leading the IAF to acquire other types of armed UAVs – the Hermes 900 made by Elbit 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. According to Israeli sources, the IAF has developed a doctrine for using its armed UAVs in various scenarios, including using formations and different missiles.
The Israeli sources added that the UAVs armed with missiles are equipped with very advanced payloads, aiding in target detection under severe conditions. As the Heron TP is a long-endurance, large UAV, it can carry a mix of weapon systems to perform different missions.