Military debuts the ‘Oron,’ a new intel-gathering aircraft years in the works

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

The Israeli military debuts a new spy aircraft today that it says will assist it in gathering intelligence and identify potential targets for attack in Iran, Iraq, Yemen and other far-flung areas in the Middle East.

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

The plane was developed over the course of nine years in a collective effort by the military, Defense Ministry and weapons contractors, according to the 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 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,” says 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 reception ceremony for the new aircraft, which will be operated by the Israeli Air Force’s 122nd Squadron, was held earlier in the day at the Nevatim airbase in the northern Negev desert.

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