IDF to upgrade and expand elite drone unit
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IDF to upgrade and expand elite drone unit

Unmanned aerial vehicles to be added to all active battalions

An Israeli Air Force drone, Hermes 450 UAV, manufactured by Elbit (photo credit: Elbit via Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash 90)
An Israeli Air Force drone, Hermes 450 UAV, manufactured by Elbit (photo credit: Elbit via Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash 90)

An elite IDF unit tasked with managing the army’s drones will soon expand its operations by deploying across the military echelon, according to a report in the army magazine Bamahane.

Beginning in March, the Israel Defense Force’s “Sky Rider” unit, an unmanned aerial vehicle operating force, will assign a UAV squad to every active battalion and increase the length of training to one year from eight months. The extra four months will be used for collaborative training with other battalions.

Officers who join Sky Rider after the change takes effect will begin a course to train specifically within their unit, rather than joining the general combat officers’ course. Additionally, the unit’s field presence will be increased by promoting several current soldiers and commanders to officers.

Sky Rider commander Col. Uri Gonen told Bamahane that the “decision to assign officers will drastically improve the quality of command.”  He went on to explain that for “a unit that cooperates so frequently with other units, its commander should be at home in any unit, from armor to infantry, so that they can effectively manage the dialogue and collaboration between units.”

The unit plans to receive the upgraded version of its trademark Skylark UAV from Elbit Systems this year. The drone is expected to be available for training and implementation in November.

The IDF’s drone program is a major part of its strategic operations. In January, the army’s most advanced drone crashed in an orchard near Gedera, causing millions of dollars in damage.

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