Ukraine War Lessons: Israel Concerned with Future Multi-layered Autonomous Threats to Upgrade Preparedness


Foreign Affairs

Tel Aviv: In spite of the fact that the UAV’s that are operated in the Ukraine are relatively basic, many countries are trying to learn from this fighting arena about future combat scenarios that will involve different types of UAV and Drones, armed and unarmed.

As information about the use of these unmanned systems in Ukraine becomes available more conclusions are being made by the experts. An interesting report from Ukraine claims that the first aerial battle (“dogfight”) in the world between two drones took place there. A video posted on social media shows an incident in which a Chinese-made DJI Mavic quadcopter (a cheap, readily available, off-the-shelf product that is easily operated by anyone) under Ukrainian operation succeeded in downing a Russian quadcopter by hitting one of its blades. The incident is not similar to aerial battles between manned fighter aircraft, but the purpose is identical. Even though this is only a single example, it can indicate the future and remind us of the threat of drones and the implications of off-the-shelf systems on the battlefield.

According to Liran Antebi, a senior researcher in the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), the Israeli security establishment should study the Iranian drones well; although their quality and reliability are not as high as that of Western counterparts, they will likely make their way to the next round of fighting in our region and require a response. In the context of the longer term, it is also essential that the IDF study and prepare to cope with future autonomous threats that are not only aerial, as it appears that this is a central direction of future warfare, whether state or non-state.

“The attacks on Kyiv offer lessons about attacks on both military targets and the civilian home front. The change necessary in preparedness includes the need for early identification, which in the case of small aircraft like the Shahed-136 and similar ones, as well as various other drones, is challenging and requires different systems than those that exist in Israel today with a broad deployment.”

According to the senior researcher, preparedness is required not only for defending the home front, but requires that the IDF also deal with all related to defence of the ground forces.

“The Shahed drones that attack according to a waypoint defined for them in advance do not constitute a significant challenge for manoeuvring forces (which are in motion and not at a set waypoint, unlike a command post for example), except for forces in staging areas.”

The researcher added that as a rule, drones including suicide drones, whose operation is guided by a human operator and enable tracking forces in motion, create a challenge that is different in nature than that inherent in defending stationary sites or the home front against aerial attacks.

“This challenge, incidentally, concerns not only Israel but also NATO and the US. This multi-layered threat toward ground forces must be addressed on the level of military build-up and requires not only technology but also operational doctrines and suitable training.”

The INSS senior researcher further added that in addition, along with reinforcing the interception systems, and in light of the fact that even the best systems do not provide airtight defence, Israel should work on preparedness for essential infrastructure at the home front for sustaining hits and recovery. This issue is discussed at length in an Israeli state comptroller report and it is evident that today the gaps are not adequately addressed, perhaps due to the high success rates of Iron Dome interceptions in the rounds of fighting in the south.

“Seriously addressing this issue will help reduce the risk that Israeli communities will look like Kyiv of October 2022, after the Iranian drone attack.”