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Tuesday, October 4, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israel Air Force marks 40 years of drone ops

TEL AVIV — Israel has completed 40 years of unmanned aerial military operations.


The Israel Air Force has commemorated its first unmanned aerial vehicle squadron, established in 1971. The ceremony took place on Oct. 2 and highlighted Israel's development of tactical and strategic UAVs.

"The UAVs are providing a crucial contribution to the IAF's operational capabilities," Israel Aerospace Industries president Itzhak Nissan said.

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IAI has been deemed the leading UAV supplier to Israel. In 1981, the state-owned company supplied the Scout tactical UAV for reconnaissance missions over Lebanon.

Since then, the air force has been supplied by other Israeli companies, including Elbit Systems and Aeronautics Defense Systems. UAVs by both firms have been used in counter-insurgency operations in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has also been developing combat UAV platforms. Industry sources said many of Israel's new platforms were capable of firing light air-to-ground rockets.

For its part, IAI has developed strategic UAV platforms, particularly Eitan, with a wingspan of 26 meters, or that of a Boeing 737 aircraft. Eitan, which can reach an altitude of 41,000 feet, was said to be based on the Heron turboprop platform.

IAI has focused in marketing its Heron medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV. So far, Heron, with an endurance of more than 24 hours, was said to have been operated by 15 militaries, including at least four NATO armies in Afghanistan.

"The Heron UAV can carry multiple payloads and operate them simultaneously when needed: electro-optical payloads, maritime patrol radar, synthetic aperture radar, relay equipment, various communication systems and more, according to customer needs," IAI said.

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