Contributor D. Chandler:
In what could be a precursor to widespread technological aerial combat, Israeli military responded to a drone launched deep into their fiercely guarded airspace. Israeli Defense Forces spotted the drone, which did not carry any weapons or explosives, hovering over Gaza before it entered Israeli airspace, military spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said. Forces kept the drone under surveillance, flying alongside the aircraft until a fighter jet shot it down around 10 a.m. Saturday over the Yatir Forest, an unpopulated area near the border with the occupied West Bank, according to Israeli Defense Forces; raising the possibility of a retaliatory response. With the downing of what many in Israel believe was an enemy drone, a retaliatory response looms ever more certain. Given this volatile atmosphere, it might serve us all to take a closer look at the rhetoric that has followed the incident and a closer look at the history and danger combat drones present.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak praised the interception as “sharp and effective”.
An Israeli military spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich, did not say whether the drone had flown over sensitive targets, or speculate about its mission.
It was not clear where the drone originated. Military officials, however, said it does not appear that it took off from Gaza, which along with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Mediterranean Sea forms the western border of the Negev.
No hostile aircraft has penetrated Israeli airspace in six years, according to the Associated Press.
The pro-Iran Islamic militant group Hezbollah, a prime suspect in today’s incursion, has previously sent drones into Israel. Last week, Israeli officials announced they had arrested an Arab citizen living in Israel on charges of spying and identifying vulnerable military targets for Hezbollah.
Israeli parliament member Miri Regev, a former chief spokesman of the military, wrote on Twitter it was an “Iranian drone launched by Hezbollah”, referring to the Lebanese Shi’ite group that fought a war with Israel in 2006.
Correspondents say several small drones have penetrated Israeli territory in the past, but from the north.
An Israeli navy ship was damaged by an explosive drone in July 2006.
Also in 2006, Israeli forces quickly shot down a drone that Hezbollah launched into Israel. And in 2010, an Israeli warplane shot down an apparently unmanned balloon in the Negev near the country’s Dimona nuclear reactor.
Two others flew over part of northern Israel in 2004 and 2005 without being intercepted.
Most people understand very little about these unmanned aerial vehicles. The concept of the combat drone was explored first by Dr. Lee De forest, an early inventor of radio devices. Dr. Forest’s idea was first published in an article found in a 1940 publication of “Popular Mechanics” Magazine, called “Robot Television Bomber.” The articles opening paragraph states: “A Robot bombing plane, literally a flying bomb with a mechanical eye for seeking out its target, is the proposal of Dr. Lee De Forest and U.A. Sanabria, Chicago television engineer, who believe that such planes, built at an approximate cost of $10,000 each, would be a simple and practical method of greatly increasing the accuracy of aerial bombardment.”
“In flight such a plane would be steered and operated by radio from a control plane that could remain as far as ten miles away.”
It was a fascinating idea back then and remains quite captivating today.
Ironically, during the 1980s, Iran used a simple drone capable of holding six RPG-7 rounds in combat in the Iran-Iraq War. An RPG-7 is a Russian weapon that is widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. The initials RPG represents three Russian words Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomyot (Ручной Противотанковый Гранатомет) which simply translates into the English words; “rocket-propelled grenade.” Nevertheless, it’s important to note that the first time a combat drone was used in war was the in the “Iran-Iraq War.”
He recently acknowledged that the U.S. used UVAs to attack high-value terrorist targets on Pakistan’s territory.
It may be rarely known that “drones” come in numerous shapes and sizes, have a wide range of potential civilian and scientific uses, including law-enforcement and industrial monitoring. However, most people familiar with these pilotless planes understand their military purposes (reconnaissance and combat operations).
While drones have been developed for decades by various countries, they came to their recent military prominence due to two factors: (1) technological advances allowing unmanned flying objects to be accurately guided over large distances and (2) better intelligence gathering on the ground, which makes it possible to pinpoint and strike high-value military targets while keeping civilian casualties and other collateral damage as low as possible.
While many countries are attempting to manufacture drones, most of them are either technologically unsophisticated or are being used strictly for civilian purposes.
Reportedly, the U.S. and Israel are the two most important manufacturers of military drones, with the United States being both the largest producer and the most frequent user of the aircraft.
Depending on type; costs of these deadly weapons range from $4.5 million-$30 million per unit. The Predator is on the low end of price range while the Reaper is the most expensive model.
Though Israel was the first country to develop military drone technology following the 1973 Arab Israeli war, the U.S. military presently possesses more than 7,000 aerial drones.
In 2010, Iran claimed to to have successfully tested a four meters long, 1,000 kilometer range combat drone called the Karrar. Pakistan and India also say they possess combat-capable drones, but most experts believe drones manufactured by these countries are significantly inferior in almost all technological aspects when compared to those produced in the U.S.
Many other countries, including world powers Russia and China, have been trying to manufacture deployable drones for a long time. But technological difficulties and a lack of accurate intelligence gathering capabilities imposes limits on the effectiveness of their use.
With Tensions dramatically escalating in the Middle East in recent weeks, with Netanyahu warning the United Nations two weeks ago that Iran must be stopped from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and with Saturday’s apparent drone attack, it is perhaps important to know what these weapons can do and who has them.
A major war in the Middle East seems not only closer but inevitable when you consider recent rhetoric from Eastern leaders.
“The world tells Israel ‘wait, there’s still time.’ And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’” Netanyahu said in September. “Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”
President Obama refused last month to meet face-to-face with Netanyahu, but emphasized his commitment to stability and security in the region.
“I have conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu all the time,” the president told “60 Minutes” in September. “And I understand and share Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran should not obtain a nuclear weapon, because it would threaten us, it would threaten Israel, and it would threaten the world and kick off a nuclear arms race.”
Obama made clear that his primary concern is for the safety of Americans. “When it comes to our national security decisions — any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people,” Obama said. “And I am going to block out – any noise that’s out there. Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we’re in close consultation with the Israelis — on these issues. Because it affects them deeply. They’re one of our closest allies in the region. And we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence.”
The Israeli military released a 10-second video clip of what it said was Saturday’s mid-air interception. In the video, a small, unidentified aircraft is seen moments before being destroyed by a missile fired from a fighter jet.