The Israeli air force (IAF) will select an off-the-shelf training system for its unmanned air vehicle academy, scrapping a previous plan to develop a bespoke training UAV.

The initial plan was to ask Israeli manufacturers of UAVs to develop a dedicated system for training. This proved too time-consuming and costly, but some of the manufacturers had submitted proposals for a training UAV before it was decided to use an existing system.

“We will select an off-the-shelf UAV from what is offered by the Israeli companies,” a commander of the IAF’s UAV academy told FlightGlobal.

He explains that an upgraded version of an existing UAV that has accumulated operating experience would now be the ideal.

The commander says the demand for UAV operators is increasing, and while most of the UAVs operated by the IAF are equipped with automatic take-off and landing systems, the role of the external pilot is still on the cadets’ curriculum.

“The external pilot may sometimes help in certain missions and he can go into the ground control unit and function as a mission commander,” he says.

The commander notes that cadets are being trained to operate the UAVs in co-operation with manned aircraft that take part in combat or reconnaissance missions. “This operational capability is needed in the IAF’s list of missions, and is included in the advanced part of the course,” he says.

The demand for UAV support in the Israeli defence forces continues to grow, and the IAF’s Israel Aerospace Industries Heron 1 squadron has a UAV in the air at all times. In many cases, when one mission is completed the same UAV is immediately allocated to another mission.