Armed drone crashes in south, sparking fire and grounding fleet

Air Force chief Tomer Bar orders model in question taken out of service pending investigation, two months after fleet was grounded following crash near maritime border with Lebanon

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

The scene of the crash of an armed military drone in southern Israel, November 9, 2022 (Courtesy)
The scene of the crash of an armed military drone in southern Israel, November 9, 2022 (Courtesy)

An armed Israeli military drone crashed near Arad in southern Israel on Wednesday evening, sparking a fire and spurring the grounding of an entire fleet for the second time in three months, the military said.

The Israel Defense Forces said soldiers were dispatched to the scene to clear the debris safely.

Fire services who initially reached the scene were ordered to stay back, over fears munitions on the UAV would explode.

Air Force chief Tomer Bar ordered the grounding of the entire fleet of the model in question until after the incident was investigated. The IDF did not identify the model that crashed.

In September, the military grounded an entire drone fleet after a UAV crashed into the sea along Israel’s maritime border with Lebanon, before it was retrieved by the Navy.

According to the IDF, that crash occurred due to a malfunction. No further details on the cause were published.

The model in that case was also never published.

An IAI EItan drone is seen at the Tel Nof airbase, during Operation Breaking Dawn in early August 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Until recently, talk of Israel’s armed drones was barred from publication by the Military Censor. For years the IDF would not confirm it uses armed drones, and Israeli journalists who attempted to report on it came up against the IDF censor.

The IDF says that drones make up about 80% of the total operational flight hours in the Air Force. Israel has not disclosed how many attack drones it has.

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