IDF May Ground New Project to Produce High-tech Drones

High-ranking IDF commanders say drone project should be frozen, perhaps scrapped, over budgetary concerns and operational considerations.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The IDF is considering temporarily grounding a new project to produce sophisticated unmanned airplanes.

During discussions held in recent weeks among ground forces commanders, some artillery officers and other high-ranking IDF commanders argued that the drone project should be frozen, and perhaps scrapped, over budgetary concerns and operational considerations.

The Israeli-made Eitan drone.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The plan to design the surveillance drones, which would provide visual information via photos and videos, had been considered a high priority for artillery forces since a decision was reached to pursue the technology in 2009.

The 2009 decision was to "divide" the sky into zones of action, some for the Israel Air Force and others for artillery; a new line of drones was to provide precise intelligence information for IDF commanders.

An army source said the project has complicated operational dimensions. Possibly, IDF officers argue, intelligence needs can be fulfilled via the use of current drone and other surveillance technologies.

The IDF spokesman said no decision has been reached, to date, concerning the future of the drone project.

Today the Skylark II, designed by Elbit Systems, is deployed by the IDF on the Israeli-Egyptian border, on an experimental basis. The Skylark II trial run started a month ago.

The army's B'mahane journal noted two weeks ago that after deployment of the Skylark II in the south for half a year, a review will be undertaken concerning the use of plane surveillance technologies - ground forces commanders will decide whether drone models can fulfill the array of intelligence challenges they face.

Artillery force plans envisioned the deployment of a new line of drone that would have special surveillance capability regarding built-up areas.

The drone is to collect visual information within a range of 50 kilometers, and should be able to fly in the air between five to 10 hours.

The drone should have the ability to survey ground areas and identify targets, and also identify areas from which missiles are fired.

Artillery forces currently operate two drone systems. One is the Hermes 450, also designed by Elbit; the other, Skyrider, also supplies intelligence information.

Unlike the Skyrider, the new system would be able to detect targets to be attacked by use of lasers.