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IDF receives new spy plane it says will help gather intel in Iran, Yemen, Iraq

The Oron, a Gulfstream jet outfitted with a variety of sensors and data collection equipment, can rapidly identify targets in all weather conditions, developer says

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

An air traffic controller directs an Oron spy aircraft down a runway at the Nevatim air base in southern Israel on April 4, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
An air traffic controller directs an Oron spy aircraft down a runway at the Nevatim air base in southern Israel on April 4, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces received the first of a series of new spy aircraft, dubbed the Oron, on Sunday that it said would improve its ability to gather intelligence and identify targets for attack in Iran, Iraq, Yemen and other far-flung areas in the Middle East.

“The IDF and the air force already have a variety of intelligence collection capabilities, but the ‘Oron’ strengthens our superiority and our ability to operate in the second and third tiers and to move between fronts rapidly and over a long period of time,” said Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin.

The second tier refers to countries that do not border Israel but represent a direct threat to the country — such as Iraq and Yemen, where Iran maintains proxies with missile and drone capabilities that could be used against Israel — while the third tier refers to enemy countries located further than that, principally Iran.

The airplane, a Gulfstream G550 Aerospace, has been outfitted with a bevy of sensors and data collection equipment that allows it to rapidly locate targets in all weather conditions, according to one of its creators.

Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin speaks at a reception ceremony for the new Oron spy aircraft that was received by the military at the Nevatim air base in southern Israel on April 4, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Oron, literally meaning stableman, was developed over the course of nine years in a collective effort by the IDF, Defense Ministry and weapons contractors, according to the military.

The precise number of Oron aircraft that the IDF is due to receive is classified.

A reception ceremony for the new aircraft, which will be operated by the Israeli Air Force’s 122nd Squadron, was held on Sunday at the Nevatim air base in the northern Negev desert.

“The purchase of the ‘Oron’ plane is another expression of the growing effectiveness of the air force. The capabilities of this plane add a level to the operational and strategic capabilities that exist in the air force, which will ensure the continued assurance of its superiority in the Middle East and the defense of the State of Israel’s skies and its safety,” Norkin said.

The head of the Defense Ministry’s Research and Development team, Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem, said the aircraft had unparalleled capabilities that would allow the military to identify targets for attack more easily.

“The plane gives the IDF a modern and unprecedented intelligence feature that uses breakthrough sensory systems, a variety of sensors and radars that are installed in the plane. All of these will flow high-quality data into the IDF’s intelligence arrays,” Rotem said.

Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin and the commander of the Israeli Air Force’s 122nd Squadron put an emblem on a new ‘Oron’ spy aircraft that was received by the military at the Nevatim air base in southern Israel on April 4, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

He added that this data will be processed automatically by the military’s artificial intelligence-supported systems.

“We have made a machine that knows how to create and expose targets in all weather, in very short periods of time — mere seconds — over plots of land of thousands of kilometers and at ranges necessary for attacks,” Rotem said.

Yoav Turgeman, the vice president of Israel Aerospace Industries, which helped develop the aircraft, said all the equipment on board was “blue and white,” or created in Israel.

“This specialized technology, which is a ‘blue and white’ creation, will improve the ability of the IDF on a number of fighting fronts, principally in the air force’s abilities to conduct strikes,” Turgeman said.

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