Is Israel Building an All-Drone Army?
June 15, 2014 | Comments (2)
Because for most of the world, drones more often than not bear the flag of Israel as an insignia.
According to CNN, the state of Israel is the largest exporter of drones and drone technology in the world. Leading Israeli defense concern Israel Aerospace Industries, or IAI, counts as its customers the military forces of more than two-dozen nations around the world. These customers buy Israeli drones first and foremost because they're easier to acquire than American models -- where sales can be held up by government restrictions on drone exports. But customers also flock to buy Israeli drones because they work.
In fact, they work so well that Israel may be replacing its manned combat aircraft with robotic drones.
Building a drone empire in the Middle East
Israel recently announced a plan to retire 33 Textron (NYSE: TXT ) AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunships. News reports suggest that the Cobras' role will, in the future, be taken over by unmanned "drone" aircraft -- armed to the teeth with air-to-surface guided missiles. Already, one former Israeli Cobra squadron is said to have been equipped with Israeli "Hermes 900" unmanned aerial vehicles.
While Israel's defense ministry won't comment on reports of its possessing "weaponized" drones, media outlets around the Middle East have reported seeing Israeli drones conducting armed operations as far back as 2006. This backs up rumors of a shift to armed drones. And there would be sound logic supporting such a move, if it is indeed happening.
UAVs offer many advantages over piloted helicopters. Piloted remotely, they eliminate the risk of Israeli pilots being killed or wounded in combat -- or taken prisoner. Israel's drones can also fly for 12 hours and up, versus about 90 minutes for an AH-1 Cobra. They're cheaper to operate -- and in many cases, cheaper to buy.