Tel Aviv: Since the outbreak of the ongoing war in Gaza and Lebanon the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has performed hundreds of pinpoint attacks using its fleet of armed UAV. The armed UAV target launchers of rockets operated by the Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In addition, these armed UAVs kill high ranking officers of the two terror organisations that are proxies of Iran.
For more than 20 years, a gag order was issued by Israeli censors prohibiting local media from discussing the open secret that Israel has armed UAVs. In a recent visit to the IAF squadron 160 the ” Black Snake”, I learned many details about this squadron that in the recent clash was one of the busiest in the IAF. The squadron is operating the Hermes-450 UAV made by Israeli company Elbit Systems and is located in the IAF’s Palmahim air base in central Israel. Roughly 80% of the total number of the IAF flight hours are performed by UAVs.
According to Major M, deputy commander of the squadron, the type of operations Squadron 161 is running, which are often in dense, populated areas such as Gaza, require flexibility. She noted that all missions are controlled from a two-man station in the base, with a mission commander and an operator seated side-by-side watching the data transmitted by the UAV.
“We receive missions from the high command, and it is allocated to platforms already over the designated area or to others that are in the air after a few minutes. We are on high alert and can launch a number of armed UAVs in minutes” she said.
As the Hermes-450 is heavily operated over Gaza, the targets are in most cases not static — crews of Hamas preparing the launch of rockets into Israel and commanders riding motorcycles on their way to perform an attack against Israel. Given the density of Gaza, Squadron 161 requires almost real-time sensor-to-shooter sequences.
“We are capable of the real-time sensor-to-shooter operations, and this is enabled by the accurate intelligence gathered by the UAVs payload combined with additional details that we receive from other sources,” the Major added. “Our squadron’s UAVs are flying over an area and collecting intelligence. When a target is detected and confirmed the mission commander approves the launch of the munitions,” she stressed.
While the IAF refused to detail the different munitions used by its different armed UAV squadrons, industry sources said that the variety of munitions that are designed for use on UAV has been increased to meet the growing operational requirements.
Notably, the Hermes-450 is powered by a Wankel rotary engine, which is very noisy. The IAF some years ago installed mufflers but that affected the engine’s power and the idea was abandoned. The noise the engine emits is exceptional high but according to the deputy squadron commander that does not affect the lethality of the systems. The weapons carried by the IAF’s armed UAV’s are classified and in the ongoing war new types are being used.