The dramatic increase in the number of joint missions in which the Israeli air force is using both manned and unmanned aircraft has led it to implement special procedures so as to enable seamless operations.
Israel's air force is using unmanned air vehicles in a variety of missions, the number of which is continuously increasing. Many of the flights are performed in conjunction with manned aircraft, including fighters, helicopters and intelligence-gathering assets. This situation requires very clear operational procedures, to enable the performance of sometimes very complicated missions using the mix of types.
One senior air force officer tells Flightglobal that such combined missions are based mainly on procedures, adding that "technology is less important in this mode of operation".
The air force's procedures are especially crucial when the mixed fleets are in operation over hostile territory. One example was its "Protective Edge" missions flown over the Gaza Strip in mid-2014, when a record number of flights were performed, in a bid to suppress the launch of rockets into Israeli territory.
Meanwhile, another senior officer says that the air force will continue to use its Beechcraft King Air B200 intelligence-gathering aircraft, despite the growing use of UAVs for similar missions.
"Part of the intelligence missions we perform on a daily basis have already been shifted to the unmanned platforms, but the success of many is based on the speed in which the sensors can reach an area of interest," the officer says. "This is a key factor that will leave the B200 in service for the foreseeable future."
During a recent exercise, UAV operators worked in close cooperation with the air reconnaissance controllers who fly onboard the King Airs, to achieve the shortest sensor-to-shooter time in missions aimed at assisting aerial attacks.