The Israeli Air Force’s UAV squadron operates the Heron-1 (Shoval) UAVs by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) around the clock. This advanced IAI UAV has an endurance of 30 hours.
“The number of users constantly increases,” says Major S., first deputy to the squadron commander. “Every day, additional IDF commanders discover the capabilities of the UAVs, and ask for the squadron’s services. The ‘permanent’ UAVs are often not enough, so another UAV is diverted from a training mission to assist and satisfy the hunger of the various units for real-time information.”
The people of the squadron are proud of the fact that theirs was the first UAV squadron in the IAF. At the entrance to the squadron HQ, on a raised pedestal, stands a Scout (Zehavan) UAV – one of the earliest models flown by the IAF. It reminds everyone that this squadron has a tradition of more than 40 years’ experience in the employment of UAVs.
The UAVs carry either a night/day payload or a night-only payload and have the ability to designate targets using a laser designator.
UAV technology is developing rapidly, and the squadron does not have a single UAV that still retains all of the components it contained on the day it rolled off the assembly line at IAI. When we went out on the runway at the Palmachim airbase, the external operator was preparing to launch a Shoval UAV. I asked Major S. why they still needed an external operator when there are systems capable of fully automatic take-off and landing.