Israeli spy satellites are covering “areas of interest” continuously, but the Israeli air force (IAF) is still actively operating good ‘ol imaging systems carried by fighter aircraft. Calling the technology “good ‘ol” may sound nice, but in fact these systems are “excellent and new”.
The F-15A/Bs of “The Knights of the Twin Tail” squadron take off for operational flights on a daily basis equipped with these sharp eyes. Gathering intelligence by aerial photography is a major practice for the squadron.
The situation in Israel is unique. Some of the threats are located just across the border in countries that are in peace with Israel. The best example is the Sinai peninsula – a part of Egypt that has signed a peace treaty with Israel, but has turned out to be a haven for terror organisations.
So flying over Egypt is out of the question – but flying along its border and using oblique or diagonal photography does not breach even one clause of the treaty.
The squadron’s activities are classified, but recently it got some exposure on the IAF’s website.
“When [clear] weather is expected we are the first to know, because it means we will have more intelligence missions,” explains Maj David, the squadron deputy commander in charge of photography missions.
In wartime, the squadron operates intensively in both the fields of attacking targets and gathering aerial intelligence over areas of interest.
However, fighter jets are not the only providers of aerial intelligence in the IAF – transport aircraft and unmanned air systems provide a wider situation report as events unfold.
Each of the platforms has unique advantages, and the missions vary – but the F-15s have an advantage. Their size enables them to carry heavier, more efficient photography equipment.
Additionally, F-15s on an intelligence mission can defend themselves during high-risk missions. If needed, the fighter jet can also carry out an integrated mission – detecting, “incriminating” and destroying a target.
The squadron’s F-15A/Bs are not the most advanced platform operated by the IAF, but the photography systems they carry is the most advanced equipment available. Israeli companies have developed systems that allow the fighters to see the smallest detail from very long ranges.