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Israel is setting the stage...

... for the inevitable:

Israel's air force on Sunday introduced a fleet of huge pilotless planes that can remain in the air for a full day and fly as far as the Persian Gulf, putting rival Iran within its range.

The Heron TP drones have a wingspan of 86 feet (26 meters), making them the size of Boeing 737 passenger jets and the largest unmanned aircraft in Israel's military. The planes can fly at least 20 consecutive hours and are primarily used for surveillance and carrying diverse payloads.

At the fleet's inauguration ceremony at a sprawling air base in central Israel, the drone dwarfed an F-15 fighter jet parked beside it. The unmanned plane resembles its predecessor, the Heron, but can fly higher, reaching an altitude of more than 40,000 feet (12,000 meters), and remain in the air longer.

"With the inauguration of the Heron TP, we are realizing the air force's dream," said Brig. Gen. Amikam Norkin, head of the base that will operate the drones. "The Heron TP is a technological and operational breakthrough."

Israeli officials refused to say how large the new fleet is or whether the planes were designed for use against Iran, but stressed it was versatile and could adapt to new missions. The plane's maker, state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, has said it is capable of reaching the Persian Gulf, which would put Iran within its range.

"The Heron TP has the potential to be able to conduct new missions down the line as they become relevant," said Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, commander of Israel's air force.

The question is no longer if but when.

H/T to Dan Friedman via email.



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Comments (8)

Much as I wish otherwise, I... (Below threshold)

Much as I wish otherwise, Israel isn't going to stop Iran.

Israel doesn't have the resources to mount a large-scale air assault using conventional weapons.

Politically, Israel cannot launch a 'first-strike' nuclear attack upon Iranian nuclear facilities. Because it would be seen and portrayed as an 'unprovoked' nuclear attack.

Politically, nukes can only be justified in response to a nuclear attack.

That's a huge step forward ... (Below threshold)
Paul Hooson:

That's a huge step forward for the Israeli military. But an advanced form of bunker buster type missiles would really be needed to penetrate the 75 foot deep bunkers that Iran is using to protect their nuclear program sites.

Israel does have special shells able to penetrate the protective armor of Russian tanks that has a two stage explosive. The first charge explodes the protection shell, and the second penetrates the tank. But even this technology seems unlikely to penetrate 75 foot bunkers, so likely some sort of small nuclear weapons would be required to hit bunkers this deep. And the world reaction against Israel having a first strike nuclear attack on another nation, even for self-defense may not be good. But Israel has proven over and over that they do not care about about world opinion when they consider that their self-survival at stake. So if Israel has the technology, you might almost expect it to be used at some point.

when I was just a kid my fa... (Below threshold)

when I was just a kid my father taught me to do everything I could to avoid a fight, especially if I was facing long odds (size and/or number of opponents)...until the moment I realized that it was TRULY inevitable.

At that moment I was lash out with everything I had...everything. His theory was that I might not win...but at least I would do some damage before losing.

for Israel, it is becoming TRULY inevitable. Pray for them, and us.

I believe israel will first... (Below threshold)
retired military:

I believe israel will first attack with conventional weapons to a. at least damage some of Iran's capabilities and b. to see what if anything the US will do (we know this answer. Obama will take iran's side most likely).

I would give it another 3-4 days after the initial wave of attacks (which will probably last 3 days) and when Israel has no other choice will then use low yield nukes.

Justrand, add to that the l... (Below threshold)

Justrand, add to that the lesson of never hitting a man with an empty hand unless your shoes are glued to floor.

It look almost like a WW I... (Below threshold)

It look almost like a WW II P-38 LIGHTNING

I do not see this a some hu... (Below threshold)

I do not see this a some huge step forward, mainly since they've always been at the leading edge of drone\UAV development. But good for them. This doesn't change the overall calculus for them either, only now, pilot wise, certain contingencies may not be considered near suicide missions.

I'd like to think they are going to get off there arses and act but I still have my doubts, and we know this administration will not lift a finger to aid in such an endeavor.

Iran should understand that... (Below threshold)
Don L:

Iran should understand that Israel is just pursuing these planes to seek out peaceful means of improving their energy supplies. Don't believe it, well then.....






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