Israeli Military Admits It Uses Attack Drones

Military censor confirms forces use combat drones to support 'operational activity'

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The Israeli-made Hermes 900 drone.
The Israeli-made Hermes 900 drone.Credit: Elbit Systems

The Israeli military admitted on Wednesday it regularly uses attack drones.

A brief statement from the military censor confirmed forces use combat drones to support "operational activity," without providing any further details.

Up until now, the Israel Defense Forces never disclosed the use of such drones.

International media have reported on multiple occasions over the past 15 years that the Israeli Air Force is using drones to attack targets, specifically in Lebanon in the 2006 war with Hezbollah and in the Gaza Strip.

In Israel, however, the military censor so far barred any publication of information concerning use of drones in attack missions.

In March, Lebanese network Al Mayadeen reported that six Israeli drones struck in Iran the month before, destroying several hundred Iranian drones.

Israel uses at least three types of drones in attack missions. Two of them, Hermes 450 and Hermes 900, are manufactured by defense firm Elbit Systems, and the third, Eitan, by the Israel Aerospace Industries. The 450 was the primary workhorse for the IDF over the last 20 years, used for intelligence gathering and strikes during the 2nd Lebanese war (2006), in Gaza and even Iranian arms shipments in Sudan.

The Hermes 900 is larger, can carry up to 350 kilograms in intelligence or weapons payloads, and can loiter up to 40 hours in the air.

Elbit and IAI also export attack drones; In 2021, overall Israeli arms exports soared to an all-time high of $11.3 billion from $7 billion the previous year. In 2020, drones accounted for about six percent of overall Israeli arms exports.

In November, Haaretz reported that IAI had sold Harop drones to Morocco. In contrast to drones developed for monitoring or attacks that are designed to return home after their missions are completed, the IAI Harop is a “loitering munition” drone, better known as a “suicide drone.” In other words, it destroys itself when it attacks a target.

A video released by Armenian officials in March showed the Israeli-made Harop destroying a Russian-made S-300 anti-air missile battery in Armenia last year as part of its war with Azerbaijan, during which Israel came under criticism for selling arms to Azerbaijan.

The Azeris have claimed before they were acquiring weapons from Israel "for defense purposes," but this was the first time the drone was clearly seen used in an offensive.

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