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IDF suspects engine malfunction behind crash of armed drone

Heron 1 has seen several issues, most recently in September when one fell in the sea near maritime border with Lebanon; fleet taken out of service pending investigation

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 military suspects an engine malfunction caused an armed drone to crash in southern Israel on Wednesday, according to an initial probe of the incident, details of which were released Thursday.

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

The Air Force briefly grounded the fleet following that crash.

Air Force chief Tomer Bar on Wednesday night ordered the grounding of the entire Heron 1 fleet until after the incident was investigated.

The findings of an initial probe were presented to Bar on Thursday, and the final findings are to be presented next week, the IDF said.

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 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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