UAS effective against ‘short-lived’ targets

This is this kind of story the details of which are guesswork. But even if it is only partially true, it speaks of the meeting point between unmanned air systems (UAS) and terrorists.

The story: an Israeli air force armed UAS reportedly struck an Islamic Jihad rocket launching squad on 9 August in the Sinai Peninsula near the Israeli-Egyptian border, killing at least five suspected jihadists.

This was according to Egyptian military sources quoted by Palestinian news agency Ma’an the same day.

The attack was reportedly in co-operation with the Egyptian authorities. Israel and Egypt have not responded to the reports.

According to Ma’an, the suspected jihadists were preparing to launch rockets into Israel.

Ma’an reported that a large explosion was heard in the afternoon of 9 August in Rafah, which is divided between Egypt and Gaza.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said the army does not comment on reports in foreign media. For years, the Palestinians in Gaza have claimed that Israel is using armed UAS to kill terrorists. Israel has never commented on this issue. The IDF spokesman always uses the general term “aircraft” to describe the attacks .

The use of armed UAS has been well reported. Two alleged al-Qaeda militants were killed in a suspected drone strike in southern Yemen on 10 August. Armed UAS are flying sorties all over the world every day, especially in Afghanistan.

It has not been possible to verify the details of what happened on 9 August, but the story contains all the elements one would expect to find in a new era in which UAS are operated not only to gain real-time intelligence.

What usually happens is intelligence is received about an evolving act of terrorism – planting an improvised explosive device or preparing to launch rockets, for example.

The target is “short-lived” in that it will stay in the last reported site only briefly, so scrambling a fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter to attack it in most cases will be a waste of time. The UAS is generally present over the “area of interest”, so when the intelligence is received, it would be an effective tool for engaging such a target.

But in Israeli cases that are based only on foreign press, one can only speculate on the use of UAS in an operational mode used by advanced military forces.

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