Thank Israel for UAVs

Thank Israel for UAVs

© David Burton 2016

Israeli UAV

     Here in 2015, the American media is flooded with stories about armed drones (also called UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) delivering weapons that are killing Islamic extremist leaders or about unarmed drones providing targeting information to U.S. warplanes that are attacking ISIS forces in Syria and Iraq or about armed drone strikes on Taliban forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The use of UAVs by America’s military and by the CIA is now so pervasive that the military is facing a shortage of UAV pilots and is offering financial incentives to attract more drone pilots. [1]

     In the ongoing fight against Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, America drone strikes have proven to be the best tools to use while ensuring that as few American lives are endangered as possible.

     “Unmanned aerial vehicles, aka drones, are effective tools in an unconventional war against terrorism—whether they are dropping bombs, acting as high-tech spies, or even serving as 'watchdogs' to the U.S. Embassy and American personnel.  . . .
      - - -
     “The long-awaited defeat of Osama Bin Laden was partly due to drones that had been transmitting videos to the government of his secret compound. Without these spies, there could have been a great deal of extra effort needed to gain the same information, perhaps drawing out the mission and letting Bin Laden slip through our fingers.
      - - -
     “. . . Al-Qaida has suffered significant losses due to the strikes. In June {2012}, a drone strike killed the ‘No. 2’ in Al-Qaida. {Also,} an Al-Qaida operative and six others were among the more recent deaths due to strikes in the region.” (Ref. 2) Almost daily, we see, read or hear about al-Qaida, Taliban or ISIS leaders being targeted by U.S. drones. Much of the American war on Islamic terrorism is being carried to the enemy by American UAVs.

     As of 2012, U.S. drones were reported to have killed over 1,900 insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal areas since 2006 without the lives of U.S. service personnel being put at risk.[2]

     “Furthermore, drones are not only serving as spies and bombers in conflict zones, but more recently as surveillance teams to the U.S. Embassy. These drones are unarmed with a sole purpose of preventing any potential hazards by transmitting videos and data to security personnel on the ground.
      - - -
     “The hard truth is with or without the drones, our enemies still want us dead. We don’t want to give them the opportunity to make it happen. Drones are the best tools to stopping our enemies in their tracks while protecting the Americans who are fighting so hard to protect us.” (Ref. 2)

     By just about any measure, UAVs operated by America’s military and its intelligence agencies are a success story in the war against global jihad and as part of the overall U.S. defense structure. The genesis of this success story did not come from the United States. The UAV success story started in Israel and the U.S. owes Israel a debt of gratitude for developing this significant technology.

     Some of the earliest American uses of the Israeli developed drone technology were in the vicious fighting in the former Yugoslavia and later, during the Gulf War. In Kosovo, during the spring of 1999, “Israeli-designed remote-controlled reconnaissance aircraft known as ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (UAVs) were critical to the success of NATO’s Operation Allied Force . . . {T}he Army’s Hunter UAV and the Navy’s Pioneer drone were used throughout the 78-day air campaign, gathering intelligence and data on bomb damage by NATO in the skies over Kosovo.  . . .
     “In the case of the Hunter, produced in the mid-1990s by Israel Aircraft Industries and TRW [Emphasis mine] and operated by the U.S. Army’s Task Force Hawk in Macedonia, target planners were able to watch live video feed of the Serbian (VJ/MUP) soldiers and weaponry occupying Kosovo. U.S. General Wesley Clark, NATO commander of the operation, testified before the Senate on July 1 that ‘[the Hunters]... were extremely important. This is the first time we really had a chance to apply these in a warfighting situation.’
      - - -
     “The U.S. Navy deployed its own Israeli-designed UAV to support its missions during the Kosovo conflict; the earlier Pioneer drone had proven itself eight years ago in the Gulf War. According to a June 17 feature in the Washington Post, Navy officials credited the Pioneers with having provided NATO commanders valuable intelligence during the operation, flying reconnaissance missions over Kosovo and Serbia.
     “Six Pioneers were deployed to the Adriatic Sea in April aboard the Navy ship USS Ponce. Operating off the deck of the Ponce, the Pioneers flew more than 80 hours of missions in the Balkans, using their cameras to find Serb tanks and missiles, as well as to assess damage from NATO strikes. The Pioneer was jointly produced by Israel Aircraft Industries and the AAI Corp. in Maryland. [Emphasis mine] . . .” (Ref. 3)

     In 2013, the U.S. Navy “made a big publicity splash when it boasted that the operation of a stealth drone on an aircraft carrier in Chesapeake Bay was a historic first. It was about 30 years late. The Navy's first carrier operations of a drone were on the USS Guam off the coast of Israel in 1984, and the drones were Israeli-built.
      - - -
     “Israel has long been the world leader in drone – called Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV) – aircraft and had proven very successful in combat at a time when the only thing soaring for the American Aquila {formerly, the Little-R} program was its cost; the project itself, which couldn’t get off the ground, was considered an expensive failure during the Reagan administration while Israel was the world leader in that technology.
     “. . . Naval historian Norman Polmar trace{d} the modern Navy's unmanned aircraft program to its roots in Israel.
     “During the Vietnam War drones flew reconnaissance missions over North Vietnam and on antisubmarine missions, but {it} wasn't until the 1980s that the Navy launched a large-scale UAV program, and faced with the Aquila failure the Navy turned to Israeli-developed and combat-proven drones like the Mastiff and Scout.
     “Secretary of the Navy John Lehman wanted a UAV for the Navy and Marines to perform gunfire spotting for battleships and reconnaissance. He was aware of the great success of Israeli UAV's in the 1982 Lebanon war, where they made it possible for Israel to destroy 86 Syrian SAM missile sites in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon without losing a single plane of their own.
     “Lehman sent a top aide and naval aviator to Israel to do an evaluation, and then Lehman himself ‘made a personal deal with Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin to acquire' Israeli mastiff UAVs . . . Those aircraft became the first UAVs to operate off an American carrier deck in 1984, when they began training operations from the helicopter carrier Guam off the coast of Israel nearly 20 years before the X-47B.
     “The Pentagon initially bought 72 UAV's called Pioneer, designed and partially manufactured in Israel and built in a joint US-Israeli venture. They could operate from land bases or ships and were used extensively in Operation Desert Storm, where at least one was airborne at all times during the conflict . . .
     “The Pioneer's most famous moment came on February 27, 1991, when 40 Iraqi soldiers in Faylaka Island surrendered to an unarmed UAV launched from the battleship Wisconsin.
     ". . . ‘Previous Pioneer overflights had led to precisely targeted air attacks on their patrol boats and island trenches, causing the Iraqis to believe that detection by the drone would result in similar attacks. It was history's first known surrender of troops to an unmanned vehicle.’
     “Israel today {2013} is the leading exporter of UAV{s} for both military and civilian use, although the United States is probably {the} leading manufacturer but mostly for the Pentagon and close allies.
     “There's a lot of talk about how much aid the United States gives Israel; this is another good example of how much the United States military gets from Israel. Combat proven Israeli technology was operational long before the Pentagon could launch its own UAV's. Today's advanced American drones like the Predator owe their success to Israeli pioneering in the field. [Emphasis mine]
     “The Predator, which has seen combat over at least eight countries and has been called ‘America's most successful and most feared military drone,’ was designed by an Israeli immigrant, Abraham Karem, former chief designer for the Israeli Air Force.” (Ref. 4)

     “During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Soviet-supplied surface-to-air missile batteries in Egypt and Syria caused heavy damage to Israeli fighter jets. As a result, Israel developed the first UAV with real-time surveillance. The images and radar decoying provided by these UAVs helped Israel to completely neutralize the Syrian air defenses at the start of the 1982 Lebanon War, resulting in no pilots downed.  . . .” (Ref. 5)

     “Lessons learned from Israel’s 1982 war in Lebanon regarding the use of decoys and UAVs and conduct of an integrated air-defense suppression campaign were applied in subsequent U.S. operations over Libya, Iraq, and the former Yugoslavia.” (Ref. 6)

     “With the maturing and miniaturization of applicable technologies as seen in the 1980s and 1990s, interest in UAVs grew within the higher echelons of the U.S. military. In the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Defense gave a contract to AAI Corporation along with Israeli company Malat. The U.S. Navy bought the AAI Pioneer UAV that was jointly developed by AAI and Malat. Many of these Pioneer and newly developed U.S. UAVs were used in the 1991 Gulf War. UAVs were seen to offer the possibility of cheaper, more capable fighting machines that could be used without risk to aircrews. Initial generations were primarily surveillance aircraft, but some were armed, such as the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, which used AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles.” (Ref. 5)

     While the anti-Israel crowd carps about the amount of military aid provided to Israel by the U.S., what they don’t acknowledge is that much of this aid flows back into America in the form of purchases of American-made weaponry. What these bigots also fail to mention is the trove of intelligence information that continues to be supplied to the U.S. by Israel in the global fight against terrorism. This relationship has deep roots. I remember talking with American military personnel following the Yom Kippur War who were ecstatic over the access that they were given to the latest Russian military equipment captured by Israel in the Sinai. In addition, America’s military continues to benefit from access to Israel’s civilian and military technologies. The success of America’s military drone program is just one more example of the benefits that comes from the close U.S. ties to Israel. We Americans owe Israel our thanks for UAVs and for the American lives that have been saved because of their use in the war against Islamic terrorism.


  1. Report: Air Force facing critical shortage of drone pilots, Kevin McCaney, Defense Systems, 5 January 2015.
  2. Drones save American lives, Loren Manning, Daily Titan, 2 October 2012.
  3. U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation: Israeli Drones Support U.S. Operations in Kosovo, Charles Perkins,
    Jewish Virtual Library, 12 July 1999.
  4. Israel's Pioneering Drones Led Way For US, Douglas Bloomfield, The Jewish Week, 1 September 2013.
  5. Unmanned aerial vehicle, Wikipedia, Accessed 15 July 2015.
  6. How the United States Benefits from Its Alliance with Israel, Michael Eisenstadt and David Pollock, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 2012.

  4 August 2016 {Article 260; Undecided_49}    
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