Pioneering Israeli drones use free-fall bombs, they can carry a ton

Natalie Portman
By Natalie Portman 4 Min Read
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By Dan Williams

TEL AVIV (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Israeli armed drones use gravity bombs that produce no noise or smoke as they fall, making them difficult for enemies to anticipate or evade, and the plane’s largest model can carry up to a ton of munitions, i his military says.

After more than two decades of secrecy, in July Israel unveiled its pioneering armed drones developed as part of a range of remote strike and surveillance options since it was caught off guard by tank incursions during a 1973.

In November, an Israeli general detailed the two corps – the air force and artillery – that operate the drones, both against Palestinian enemies close to home and against targets as far away as Iran or Sudan.

Such drones are piloted remotely, transmitting video or dropping bombs before returning to base. They are distinct from the kamikaze drones Iran said were used in a weekend attack on a defense facility in Isfahan, an incident Israel declined to comment on.

Briefing RockedBuzz via Reuters, a senior Israeli military official said the fleet of armed drones includes the passenger jet-sized Heron TP, manufactured by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd, and the smaller Hermes by Elbit Systems Ltd.

The former, the officer said, “is the heaviest drone the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has, which can carry ammunition, with an effective payload of around one ton.”

But, in an apparent allusion to the need to balance the payloads carried under the drones’ wings, the officer added: “That doesn’t necessarily mean they can carry a one-ton bomb. It really depends on the placement of the ammunition.”

Israeli manufacturers are not advertising the drones’ weaponized capabilities, under what industry sources have described as a Defense Ministry secrecy policy.


With its capabilities closely monitored by the global defense industry, Israel has become one of the largest operators of drones in the Middle East and a net exporter, according to the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank.

The Israeli official, unidentified in line with military requirements given the sensitivity of the subject, said any sale of bomb-capable drones would be government-to-government, denying the need for publicity.

All of the drones’ munitions are Israeli-made, the official said, and “fall in free fall and can reach the speed of sound.”

Such bombs, unlike the Hellfire missiles sometimes launched by US drones, would have no propulsion systems that generate the telltale noise and smoke of fuel afterburners.

The officer declined to give further details on the ammunition, saying only that, by design, when an armed drone attacks “no one will hear it, no one will see it coming.”

An example of a drone target would be fast-moving guerrillas, spotted and engaged before they can launch a rocket, other Israeli officials said.

However, this would assume sufficient altitude so that the drones’ propeller motors cannot be clearly heard on the ground.

In winter wars, like Israel’s in Gaza in 2008-2009, drones have to fly under clouds for their targeting cameras to work, which means they might be audible.

“You lose the element of surprise,” said the officer.

Despite the deployment of sophisticated armed drones, most of Israel’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) inventory is unarmed given the main intelligence function for the ground forces, think tank RUSI said in an online report.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Robert Birsel and Andrew Cawthorne)

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