Israel Expanding Pre-emptive ‘Tool Box’ to Minimize Growing Threat of Iranian Armed UAVs


Foreign Affairs

Tel Aviv: Israel is expanding its “tool box” used to minimize the possible growing threat of armed UAVs as Iran is expanding the production of advanced armed UAVs and position them in many sites on its soil and in other countries to be operated by Tehran’s proxies. Most of the new “tools” are highly classified but by looking at the specifications of the new Israel spy satellite that was launched on December 30, it is clear that Israel is building the capability to perform pre-emptive actions against the growing threat.

The Eros C3 was launched from the Vandenberg space force base in California using a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. This new satellite joins others from this series that have been in orbit for years and others from the Ofeq series. The Eros C3 carries an Elbit Systems multi spectral payload and has an “exceptional resolution”. Israeli sources said that the new satellite will give Israel enhanced capabilities to identify preparations for the launch of armed UAV, either from its soil or from other countries in which Iran has proxies.

The Eros C 3 satellite is a significant part of the OPTSAT3000 series of observation satellites, developed and produced by Israel Aerospace Industries. The satellite’s high-quality imagery capabilities make it a true pioneer in the area of observation satellites. A lightweight space camera developed and produced by Elbit Systems is mounted in the satellite, capable of providing very-high-resolution imagery for both governmental and business applications and missions. The new multi spectral high resolution carried by the Eros C3 is only one tool that will help Israel in dealing with the evolving threat.

According to intelligence gathered in Ukraine, Israel knows that the Shahed-136 (also referred to as a loitering weapon system) the mostly used UAV in Ukraine, has a flight range e of roughly 2,500 km and the capacity to carry a payload weighing approximately 40 kg of explosives. These UAVs are designed to fly in low altitudes. This according to Israeli sources, forces Israel to detect the launch of these armed UAV as early as possible using all kinds of sensors including those in space, and also use staring sensors carried by tethered balloons that are capable of detecting the low flying UAV in case they have not been detected immediately after launch. Israel has a number of tethered radar carrying balloons that have a “very long” detection capability. The exact range is classified.

The plan based on lessons from the war in Ukraine is to deploy some more of these balloons to cover every possible flight route of the Iranian made armed UAV, directly from Iran or from one of the countries with active Iranian proxies. Israel has also decided to make some additional changes in its early warning system and these will be put in service in the coming months. The details of these additional systems are highly classified but it can be said that they will enable the Israeli air force to get a combined picture based on connected sensors that will use algorithm to decide what is the best interception method for any fast evolving threat.

To utilize all the Israel space assets, the Israeli air force (IAF) two weeks ago established the “Space Administration”. The new administration will coordinate between all the Israeli space related bodies and work to reach a real time intelligence stream from all the Israeli space assets. The new administration will also work in cooperation with the Israeli defence industries to translate the force’s operational requirements to development programs.

The greatest possible threat to Israel is still the Iranian UAV program. Iran has been engaged in a very active operation against Middle Eastern sites. In addition, it provides information to its proxies in numerous theatres so they can build this arsenal. These groups are responsible for a number of attacks in the Middle East, including the attempted assassination of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in November 2021, attacks against Israeli ships, and attacks against American bases in Syria and Iraq, the most well-known of which occurred in October 2021 and resulted in property damage. The Iranians used armed UAV’ too attack the Mercer Street oil tanker in July 2021, which resulted in the deaths of two crew members .

According to a report prepared by Liran Antebi , a senior researcher in the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), the Israeli security establishment should study the Iranian drones well in spite of the fact that their quality is not high compared with those made in the west. “They will likely make their way to the next round of fighting in our region,” he added.

Israeli sources say that Israel should anticipate that the UAV component, particularly in its offensive guise, will represent a sizable expansion of the high-trajectory component. This combined threat necessitates the development and application of technological and operational solutions against the more well-known and frequent threat posed by high-trajectory systems, as well as unique solutions, particularly those pertaining to a scenario in which massive UAV barrages are launched.

While upgrading its capabilities to protect against Iranian armed UAVs, Israel according to foreign sources destroyed hundreds of Iranian UAV in an Iranian base In 2022. As reported by the Iran International website operated from London by opposition members, an Israeli aerial attack reportedly destroyed hundreds of drones at an airbase belonging to the Revolutionary Guard in the Iranian province of Kermanshah last month.

The report said the mid-February attack caused major damage to the Islamic Republic’s drone fleet, with some estimates saying that hundreds were destroyed.

Tal Inbar, an Israeli defence analyst and an expert on unmanned systems, said that the Russian UAV industry is in a bad shape and that is why Moscow asked for the Iranian help . “But the Russians will without any doubt help Iran in every possible way – or by supplying components that Iran cannot get because of the sanctions or by offering other defence related services.” Inbar added that the launch of an Iranian satellite by a Russian launcher in August 2022 ,may have been part of the “payment” for the massive supply of Iranian armed UAVs to Russia. In August 2022, Russia launched an Iranian satellite from Kazakhstan.

So all these development cause great concern in Israel. In the past, Iran directly and its proxies sent UAV that were intended to enter the Israeli air space. By using early warning, supplied by sensors and “other means” all these were intercepted before they reached Israel. But Israeli sources said that this will not be enough, even after the Israeli developed anti UAV systems are fully operational. While new systems are being developed, the existing ones are being upgraded. One recent example – Rafael Advanced Defence Systems is revealing a set of game-changing counter-UAV defence capabilities for DRONE DROME.

DRONE DOME now features a maximum jamming range of 70 km and is capable of detecting possible threats from over 150 km away. These unique features bring this combat-proven system to the next level, delivering state-of-the-art performance from large distances.

DRONE DOME’s new capabilities include diverse jamming techniques allowing the system to deliver comprehensive defence against attacks from varying distances and altitudes. Effective against all types of threats from both Class I and Class II UAVs – DRONE DOME delivers a powerful combined capability that is unique among available C-UAV systems – defending against both commercial and military drones and UAVs. Extensively proven, ready, and operational, this cutting-edge solution has been successfully deployed by a number of NATO, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries – protecting borders, airports, military assets, and major events.

Having understood well the effect of armed UAVs, Iran positions them in many strategic locations. According to Tal Beeri, a senior researcher with the Israeli Alma Research Centre, the Iranians have established a UAV base in an airport located on the Southern coast of Iran. “Qeshm Island, with its strategic location, controls the Straits of Hormuz and all the movement of oil tankers and merchant ships in the area. The island is a short distance from the United Arab Emirates.”