An Israeli air force Lockheed Martin F-16 has shot down an unmanned air vehicle launched from Lebanon by Hezbollah militants. The threat was detected over the Mediterranean sea on 25 April and was destroyed shortly after by an air-to-air missile.

The encounter occurred at 13:30 local time, and an air force helicopter transporting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for an official visit to the north of the country landed as fighters were scrambled (file image of air force F-16Is below).

 F-16I pair - Israeli air force

Israeli air force

The interception was made not far from the coastal border between Israel and Lebanon. There is no evidence to suggest the UAV was armed or that it was aimed at an Israeli offshore pumping rig which has recently started to extract natural gas from the Tamar under-sea reservoir. The Israeli air force is operating special systems to protect this potential target for terror organisations.

Israel's latest interception of a UAV is the fifth such action to have been performed by its air force in the past decade.

Most recently, in October 2012, a UAV was destroyed over Israeli territory, after being flown from Lebanon and over the Gaza Strip. In November 2011, an unmanned aircraft - later identified as a Seeker - was also shot down by an Israeli F-16, having been launched from Lebanon. An Iranian-made Ababil UAV that was being operated by Hezbollah during fighting on the Israeli/Lebanese border was also destroyed by an F-16 in 2006, with its debris falling into the Mediterranean.

Since a similar occurrence in November 2004, the air force has fielded additional sensors that have improved its capability to detect unmanned systems trying to enter Israeli airspace.

Source: Flight International