The air force required two shots to bring down the drone that penetrated deep into the country’s airspace Saturday, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Wednesday, suggesting the operation was not the major success initially proclaimed.
The report, which cited an unnamed official, said that in addition to the drone flying around “for some 30 minutes,” while F-16 fighter jets trailed it, the pilots missed their first attempt to hit the target.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth’s account of the events, after the initial warning systems detected the drone flying over the Mediterranean Sea into Israeli airspace, two F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept it.
A pilot trailed the drone, and fired a panther missile — considered the most advanced in the IDF arsenal — towards the drone. Shortly afterwards a second missile was shot at the drone — this time successfully hitting the target — while it was flying north of Beersheba.
Hours after the incident, Defense Minister Ehud Barak congratulated IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz and head of the Israel Air Force, Amir Eshel, on a job well done.
“We had monitoring contact from the ground and from the air. We alerted jet planes that escorted the unmanned aerial vehicle and due to some operational considerations we decided to intercept the unmanned aerial vehicle in the northern Negev area, where there are no residents,” IDF Spokesperson Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said.
According to the report, this was the first time the IAF had missed hitting an enemy drone. Hezbollah has flown drones into Israeli airspace a few times in the past, though not for several years.
However, a senior IAF official told the paper that small targets such as drones are extremely difficult to hit with precision every time, adding that “other countries with such advanced air defense systems [like Israel’s] would not be able to shoot every drone down, without error.”
The IAF said it would conduct an investigation into the incident, but the particular findings would not be divulged publicly.
After an initial investigation, military officials said the drone was likely dispatched from Lebanon.
Iran claimed that the drone managed to capture images from Israel’s Negev nuclear facility in Dimona, according to an al-Arabiya report. However, Israeli reports indicated that the drone was relatively primitive and incapable of relaying real-time information back to its dispatchers.