IAF drone fleet returns to service after faulty part that caused crash replaced

Technicians swap out flight control component in all Heron 1 aircraft, after fleet grounded following crash in southern Israel last month

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

Illustrative: An IAI Heron TP is seen flying over Israel in early August 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: An IAI Heron TP is seen flying over Israel in early August 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli Air Force on Thursday said it had returned a fleet of armed drones to service following a crash in southern Israel last month.

The drone, an IAI Heron 1, known in the military as Shoval, crashed near the southern city of Arad, causing a fire and leading to the grounding of the entire fleet for the second time in three months.

The IAF said it replaced a faulty flight control component in all of the Heron 1 drones, which had apparently caused the crash.

“After several repairs and tests… the commander of the Air Force, Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, decided to return the Shoval to full activity,” the IAF said in a statement.

The Heron 1 has seen several crashes due to various malfunctions, including in September, when one crashed into the sea along Israel’s maritime border with Lebanon and was retrieved by the Navy.

The Air Force briefly grounded the fleet following that crash.

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

Until recently, talk of Israel’s armed drones was barred from publication by the Military Censor. For years the Israel Defense Forces 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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