Two years on, IAF’s advanced spy plane nearly ready for operational takeoff

The Oron, a Gulfstream jet undergoing final test flights, has been outfitted with advanced sensors to rapidly identify targets across the Middle East in all weather conditions

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

This undated photo published August 27 shows an Oron spy aircraft at an airbase in Israel. (Defense Ministry)
This undated photo published August 27 shows an Oron spy aircraft at an airbase in Israel. (Defense Ministry)

The Defense Ministry on Sunday said its research division and the Israel Aerospace Industries completed the equipping of a new spy aircraft, dubbed the Oron, with advanced technologies, more than two years after it was purchased, readying it for it to be used operationally by the Israeli Air Force.

The airplane, a Gulfstream G550 Aerospace, has been outfitted with a bevy of sensors and data collection equipment that allow it to rapidly locate targets in all weather conditions, and is now undergoing final test flights.

In 2021, the Israel Defense Forces first received an Oron aircraft, which 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.

Iran maintains proxies across the Middle East — including in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen — with missile and drone capabilities that could be used against Israel.

The ministry said its Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) and IAI “have fully implemented the aircraft’s intelligence systems as it proceeds toward final delivery to the Israeli Air Force.”

“This achievement represents a significant milestone in the aircraft’s development and testing program,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

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 Oron, which the ministry calls “the world’s most advanced aircraft of its kind,” will be operated by the IAF’s 122nd Squadron at the Nevatim airbase in southern Israel, once the test flight phase is completed.

The Oron was developed over the course of more than a decade in a collective effort by the IDF, Defense Ministry, and weapons contractors.

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

The head of the DDR&D’s Missionized Aircraft Branch, Lt. Col. Yoed — identified only by his rank and first name — said the Oron plane would provide the military with “game-changing capabilities to counter threats far and near.”

“The unique capabilities of the aircraft include the ability to accurately track multiple targets across a wide area of coverage, in all weather and visibility conditions, with high precision over great distances and in real time, enabling a decisive and timely response to all threats,” he said in remarks provided by the ministry.

Lt. Col. “Aleph,” the commander of the IAF’s 122nd Squadron — identified only by his rank and first initial in Hebrew — said the aircraft would “exemplify the combined strength of all the IDF’s various branches.”

“The IAF’s 122nd Squadron fully recognizes the great responsibility of effectively utilizing this aircraft and its ability to protect the State of Israel,” he said.

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