Operation “Pillar of Defence” a milestone in UAS combat participation

In the history of combat involving massive use of unmanned air systems (UAS), Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defence in Gaza last week is without doubt a milestone, not only for Israel but for any other UAS user.

Details of the extensive use of UAVs over Gaza are classified, but Israeli sources told Flight International that in the eight days of fighting it was “unprecedented”.

What can be confirmed is that the use of UAS in urban warfare will be affected in a major way following the operation.

Sources say UAS belonging to Israeli defence forces (IDF) have been strained to the limits.They also emphasise that the type of warfare fought over Gaza could not have been performed without the massive use of unmanned platforms. Among other missions, UAVs carried intelligence-gathering sensors, mainly Comint, to identify the locations of those involved in launching rockets into Israel.

“This operation proved the importance of looking at unmanned air vehicles as a system that has to produce the data needed for the commanders,” one source says.

Sources also say it is already clear some changes will be made in the deployment and operational techniques used by Israeli air force (IAF) UAS squadrons.

The IAF and Israeli ground forces command are already analysing UAS deployment during the operation, and changes will be made in inventory and operational modes.

The fact Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defence minister Ehud Barak and IDF top brass chose to visit Palmachim air base – from which UAS and combat helicopters operated during Pillar of Defence – is symbolic, signifying a change in the position of UAS in any future combat.

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