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IDF holds multi-national drone exercise in central Israel

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

Drone pilots from five countries and Israel pose in front of a Hermes-450 unmanned aerial vehicle during an international exercise, dubbed Blue Guardian, which launched on July 12, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
Drone pilots from five countries and Israel pose in front of a Hermes-450 unmanned aerial vehicle during an international exercise, dubbed Blue Guardian, which launched on July 12, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli Air Force attempts to cement its status as a world leader in the use of remote-controlled aircraft, hosting a large, multi-national drone exercise in central Israel this month, which it calls unprecedented.

“This is the first time that we are meeting with drone operators from around the world, conducting missions together, complicated missions of assisting ground troops, of locating and striking enemies, of joint operations with manned and remotely controlled aircraft,” says Brig. Gen. Yoav Amiram, commander of IAF’s Palmachim Air Base, where the exercise was held.

The drill, dubbed Blue Guardian, kicked off on July 12 and ends today. Teams from Israel, the United States, France, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom took part in the exercise, operating IAF Hermes-450 unmanned aerial vehicles.

Amiram says the military relied on the air force’s drone expertise extensively during May’s conflict between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

According to IDF figures, remotely controlled aircraft conducted 643 sorties during the 11-day battle, known as Operation Guardian of the Walls, with drones collectively amassing 6,231 flight hours, meaning on average at least two dozen unmanned aerial vehicles were in the air over Gaza at every moment of the campaign.

“The UAV array conducted over 6,000 flight hours during ‘Operation Guardian of the Walls,’ maintained operational continuity with many aircraft over the Strip, and basically allowed aerial forces of the air force and the entire IDF to operate in a complicated, populated battlefield in which we need to find the enemy and minimize collateral damage,” Amiram says.

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