Israel is working on a new classified unmanned aircraft, my colleague Zack Rosenberg has confirmed. While we don’t know too much about this aircraft, which is being developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, we are quite confident that it exists. It’s apparently “fairly large” and from what we’ve gleaned about the aircraft’s systems, it’s almost certainly a stealth aircraft–at least with a level of low observable characteristics built in.
Note: This is NOT a photo of the Israeli drone in question–it is actually a Boeing X-45C. Purely for illustrative purposes only.
That’s not particularly surprising; the Israelis are second only to the United States in developing and fielding unmanned aircraft. But while other nations have been working on stealthy unmanned systems (the Dassault Neuron project or some of the Chinese stuff at Zhuhai are some examples outside the US), Israel has been curiously silent on that front… this could explain why.
Israel certainly has a need for a long-range stealthy unmanned aerial vehicle… Their arch-nemesis, Iran, is a ways away and is suspected of building nuclear weapons. What better way to gain much needed intelligence data than a long-range stealthy UAV? Or better yet a stealthy UAV that can also drop some serious ordnance? There is precedent; the US Air Force (or perhaps the CIA) has been known to be sulking around Iran with its Lockheed Martin RQ-170 stealthy unmanned reconnaissance aircraft (Incidentally, one of those went down over Iran–but I assume most DEW Line readers already know this)… It seems that it’s only logically that the same idea had occurred to the Israelis.
Furthermore, there is absolutely no doubt Israel has the technical ability to develop a stealth unmanned aircraft, and they are known to have been dabbling with low observables for quite some time. The only thing they lack is the ability to build their own turbofan engines, which they could source through other means if they want to develop something mostly in secret. For example, say Israel (or perhaps an Israeli entity) happened to buy some sort of business jet and some of the plane’s spare engines–which could perhaps fit onto a fairly large unmanned aircraft–happened to be misplaced?