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Posts tagged ‘Unmanned aerial vehicle’

Boko Haram: Military Leadership Underserves President And Junior Soldiers.

By Abiodun Ladepo

“Gunmen from Islamist sect Boko Haram killed 51 people in an attack on a town in northeast Nigeria…in a region where President Goodluck Jonathan’s troops are struggling to contain its insurgency.  Dozens of Boko Haram fighters speeding along in trucks painted in military colours and armed with automatic weapons and explosives stormed Konduga local government area in Borno state at around 4 p.m. on…burning houses and shooting fleeing villagers…The insurgents also took 20 young girls from a local college hostage…The military confirmed the attack took place but said it was still assessing the number of casualties.”

The above was the lead paragraph in a Reuters’s story published a couple of days ago.  The story’s screaming headline was: “Nigeria’s Boko Haram kill 51 in northeast attack.”   Before this headline, there had been many such screaming headlines published by different media: “Gunmen kill 22 in Nigeria church attack: Witnesses”; “Attacks by extremists kill about 75 Nigerians”; “Nigerian gunmen attack toll reaches 85”; “Nigerian Muslim Cleric Opposed to Boko Haram Shot Dead.”  And we can go on and on quoting screaming headlines that have assailed our ears since gunmen first laid siege to northern Nigeria.  Does anybody even pay any attention to these headlines anymore?  Anybody…the Federal government, the military, and the rest of us not directly affected by the carnage…do we pay any attention to these headlines anymore?  Could it be that we don’t pay attention to these headlines because they have apparently screamed themselves hoarse?  Or have we all just become inured to (and inoculated against) their potency?

But probably the one headline that should have bothered Nigerians the most was this from ThisDay newspaper: “Five Aircraft Razed as Boko Haram Attacks Maiduguri.”  The paper reported on 03 December 2013 that the president was so perturbed by the brazen and gory nature of the attack that he called an emergency meeting of the Security Council.  Erstwhile Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubike Ihejirika and Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Alex Badeh, (now CDS) along with National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) were in attendance.  Soon after that meeting, the Air Force launched a few air sorties in the area, dropping a few bombs on what it thought were the enemies.  Many of the bombs were so erratic they missed their targets by kilometers.  Some hit “friendly forces” while others landed in open fields.  The attacking insurgents disappeared into thin air almost effortlessly and our military retreated back to their barracks claiming what later amounted to nothing but Pyrrhic victory – the fact that it successfully drove the attackers away.

Drove the attackers away?  That was part of the bragging statements issued by the Army as it went on a shameless victory lap around the mangled corpses of Nigerian Soldiers and the bloods of civilians, including those of innocent women and children, now mostly Muslims.  It used to be that these attackers targeted Christians and their churches; and because of that, we attributed their attacks to part of Boko Haram’s quest to Islamize the whole of Nigeria.  For a considerable length of time now, these attacks have been launched against Nigerians irrespective of religion, sect, age, ethnicity and gender.  Commonsense should, by now, inform the collective wisdom of our highest military echelon to consider the possibility that these are probably no longer the original Boko Haram adherents we were fighting.

Our military “drove the attackers away”, turned around and came back home?  And we are satisfied with that?  What is wrong in following the attackers to whatever hole from where they came – Cameroon, Chad, or Niger – and finishing them off there?  What is wrong in following the attackers, capturing those we can capture and bringing them back to our bases for interrogation?  Believe me, if we subject these Prisoners of Wars (POWs) to internationally sanctioned interrogation techniques – those authorized by relevant Geneva Conventions articles and guaranteed to preserve the rights and dignity of the POWs – we will obtain actionable intelligence from them that would aid in our execution of this war.  Instead, we allowed the attackers to retreat and re-group so they can fight us another day.  We tucked our tails between our legs, scampered back to our bases and declared victory.  And a few weeks later, the commander whose Air Force Base was so ravaged – Alex Badeh; the one whose subordinate personnel’s wives were carted away by the enemies in that bold attack, was rewarded with promotion to Chief of Defense Staff.

None of the senators who screened Badeh for the appointment had the good conscience to ask him where he was when the attack on the base occurred; what policies he had in place, as then Chief of Air Staff, to forestall the breach of his bases, and what policies he had since put in place to prevent another such attack.  If the senators (led by David Mark, himself a former senior military officer) had had the gumption to ask the tough questions, they would have learned, for instance, that the Nigerian military is languishing in archaic war fighting equipment and doctrine.  They would have learned that our Air Force did not have something as simple as up-to-date maps of our own country – maps which would have come in handy when trying to locate the enemy’s possible fortresses; maps showing all of our man-made and natural terrains that the enemies and our forces could use for cover, concealment and mobility.  The senators would have found out that our Air Force had very limited serviceable and air-worthy fighter aircraft.  They would have learned that because of the paucity of aircraft, only very few of our fighter pilots are well-trained in their jobs.  And those who have the training may not even retain much of these perishable flying-and-fighting skills due to lack of regular sustainment training.  Our senators would have learned that our Army still carries around moribund and often malfunctioning personal and crew-served weapons; that they move around in dilapidated Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs); that our Soldiers regularly run out of ammunition, petrol, food and other essential items in the middle of firefights.  Our senators would have found out to their utter chagrins the nauseating fact that we are sometimes late in paying our Soldiers’ combat and deployment allowances; and that when they die in combat, we take forever in paying their gratuities to their families, thereby keeping morale at the lowest ebb.

Our senators might also have learned that our senior military officers do not understand the difference between conventional war (country vs. country) and Counter-Insurgencies (COIN) (country vs. insurgency) war.  And what they do not know, they could not teach to their subordinates or supervise.  The senators would have learned that we have probably been fighting an armed insurrection or an armed unconventional invasion (assuming these attackers are from neighboring Cameroon, Chad, or Niger) with the tools needed to fight a conventional war.  Had our senators done their due diligence, they would have learned that our military and our intelligence agencies, especially the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), lack the technical knowhow to emplace and employ ground/aerial, static/mobile, human/electronic intelligence collection capabilities that would greatly complement the efforts of our gallant Soldiers.  (For example, we acquired for surveillance a couple of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), otherwise known as Drones.  But with what and whom are we coordinating the images we receive from these Drones?)  Gallantry without effective fighting weaponry is nothing but suicide.  Only when our Soldiers encounter unarmed civilians do their egos swell to match their menacing muscles.  When faced with well-motivated hooded insurgents wielding Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG) launchers and vehicle-mounted 60mm machine guns, our soldiers scamper for cover.  Had the senators asked the right questions, they would have known that without motivating and empowering our Soldiers with modern, up-to-date equipment, quality training, and rewarding pay, it is as if we have consistently tied their fighting hands behind their backs and sent them to battle to die.

This low-level war with insurgents has exposed the systemic rot in our military and we should wake up to our responsibilities.  Unless we are deluding ourselves, Nigeria may not survive a full-blown invasion from one of its neighboring countries.  At the minimum, we would suffer great losses in the hands of a determined foe.  Ordinary bands of rag-tag fighters probe and infiltrate our borders at will (daytime, nighttime and evenings); they conduct successful attacks and then successfully retreat with minimal casualties.  A few days later, they repeat the attacks with slight changes to their modus operandi, throwing our soldiers into confusion.  Haba!  These are textbook basic offensive tactics that have continued to make mincemeat of our so-called dreaded military.  And any Nigerian Soldier worth his or her salt should be embarrassed to no end by this.

If we eschew politics, Goodluck Jonathan has no blame in this whatsoever.  Because he was dissatisfied with their performances (and rightfully so) he sacked Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim and Lt. Gen. Azubike Ihejirika.  To make it a clean sweep, he also sacked the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba.  While Badeh replaced Ibrahim, Ihejirika, and Ezeoba were replaced by Maj. Gen. Kenneth Minimah and Rear Adm. Jibrin Usman respectively.  Air Vice Marshall Adesola Amosu slid into Badeh’s old seat as the Air Force’s Chief of Staff.

That is all one could expect of a civilian Commander-in-Chief – reinvigorating the military at the top with fresh hands in the expectation that the new appointees will inject the Force with a new sense of purpose, direction and motivation.  Jonathan should not be expected to understand the minutiae of military Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs).  In fact, he is probably as angry and as surprised as the rest of us that we have not beaten this insurgency scourge.  Jonathan can only understand and approve what the military brasses put before him.  And anyone with a scintilla of expertise in advanced military operations, not just rudimentary knowledge of how the military conducts successful operations, should know that the succession of military brasses have not served Jonathan well.  They appear to me to have become either too obtuse and/or too impervious to designing radical changes to their TTPs.

So, as a matter of urgency, Chief of Defense Staff, Alex Badeh should begin to earn his rank and salary by immediately setting up for himself a Command Post (CP) in Maiduguri and temporarily move his office there.  If anything, this would signal to all his subordinate commanders that he means business and it is no longer business as usual.  This is war and it should be treated as such.  It would also boost the junior Soldiers’ morale to knowing their overall boss is on the battlefield with them, not ensconced in Abuja drinking pepper soup.  Badeh will now be able to see up-close what his Soldiers are facing and can effectively assess what they need in order to win the war.  When he orders them to face death, he would be doing so with moral authority, not just rank authority.  Badeh will see firsthand how a typical fellow Nigerian in Konduga lives his or her daily life and can then report same to Jonathan.  Badeh will be able to go to the National Assembly (NASS) and to Jonathan to make a good argument why Nigeria needs to recruit more Soldiers.  He would be able to convince the NASS to increase the defense budget, allowing for training in modern warfare, equipment, remunerations and emoluments for its personnel.

Finally, Jonathan will then be able to inform (not seek permission from) the leaders of Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic; the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN), that henceforth, Nigeria would deal decisively with anybody or group of persons that violates its territorial integrity.  Jonathan will mandate Badeh and his entire military leadership to employ the Powell Doctrine of maximum force each time any part of Nigeria is attacked.  And, of course, with credible and actionable intelligence, superior equipment and a motivated military, Nigeria will meet its threat of lethal force with precision and deadly overwhelming delivery.  This will serve as an effective deterrence to would be aggressors and fomenters or anarchy.  This practice of watching whole families slaughtered in cold blood; of survivors gnashing their teeth, wailing and throwing themselves on the ground; and of our military and politicians throwing up their hands in total helplessness will then come to an end.  And we would have our country back.

Abiodun Ladepo                                                                                                                           Los Angeles, California, USA                                                                         


PHOTONEWS: President Jonathan Unveils Locally Made Drone That Didn’t Fly.

President Goodluck Jonathan today unveiled a a drone made by the Nigeria Airforce. However, the drone named “GULMA” was not tested in flight.

PM News Report : Nigeria unveils locally made drone
Written by Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja
Nigeria unveiled its own drone on Tuesday, appropriately named “GULMA,” (Hausa word for gossip).
The unveiling was done by President Goodluck Jonathan at Nigeria Air Force base in Kaduna, North central Nigeria
The unmanned aerial vessel was designed and constructed by the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) in collaboration with other local institutions. The President described the launch of the UAV as a ”landmark moment” in Nigeria’s history.

He also supervised the winging of 11 locally trained UAV pilots at the occasion.

”Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, with a deep sense of pride and accomplishment, I now unveil the Nigerian-made Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, also known as GULMA,” President Jonathan said at the occasion.

”Considering the potential impact of its benefit and versatility, I cannot but say, how proud I am of the men and women of our Armed Forces.

“Apart from their commitment to the protection of our sovereignty, they are helping to keep our nation ahead in military science and technology and to keep their civilian counterparts, on their toes,” the President said.

”In the year past, we have launched the first indigenous combat vessel, developed by our Navy, and various Armoured and operational vehicles developed by the Nigerian Army.

To all of you, I say thank you. Your collective efforts have opened a new vista of innovation and opportunity for our nation,” he added.

Analysts believe the UAV would be deployed to monitor the activities militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram, which has been operating in the rugged mountains and forests of Nigeria’s North east.


Domestic Drone Industry Can Boost Economy.

Image: Domestic Drone Industry Can Boost Economy

By Elliot Jager

Drone technology developed for military and intelligence purposes is making its way into the civilian market with the potential for creating thousands of jobs and boosting the economy, according to USA Today.
The buzz about drones — or unmanned aerial vehicles — has gotten even louder since Jeff Bezos told 60 Minutes on Sunday that in the near future his would be using drones to deliver packages.
Proponents of the fledgling drone industry say that within a few years drones could pump $13 billion into the economy — and that the sky is the limit. They forecast more than 70,000 new jobs, over 30,000 in manufacturing, just over the horizon.
Within a decade drones could generate many more billions in economic growth and thousands more jobs, USA Today reported.
For now drones cannot be flown commercially in the United States, according to Federal Aviation Administration rules, but the agency expects to issue new guidelines by 2015.
Chris Anderson, who sells drones, said he expects the FAA to strictly control the use of advanced models, while smaller versions that operate over areas where there are few people would be less tightly regulated, according to USA Today.
USA Today reports that private individuals are already using drones for their work.
California real estate agent Manie Kohn switched from helicopters to drones for video shoots of for sale luxury properties. He has been trained by the manufacturer to fly them himself and even obtained $1 million in insurance coverage.
Drones are also being used on large farms to monitor crops and cattle and scrutinize water and fertilizer distribution.
Patrick Egan, a drone industry lobbyist says, “I walk down the street and see drone dollars everywhere. The potential is huge.”
Venture capitalist Chris Dixon agrees. “There will be a whole economy around it, with entrepreneurs creating technology for specific types of customers. There are a number of obvious applications, and lots of less-obvious applications that we haven’t even thought of yet.”
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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Secret Report: Al-Qaida Working to Develop Defense Against Drones.


Al-Qaida is trying to develop technology that can shoot down, jam, or remotely hijack drones in a feverish effort to put an end to the unmanned airstrikes that have devastated the terrorist organization’s ranks, a secret U.S. document reveals.

According to a top secret intelligence report obtained by The Washington Post, al-Qaida commanders have commissioned a group of engineers within the terrorist network to exploit the vulnerabilities of the drones that have killed approximately 3,000 people over the last decade.

The report was obtained from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, the newspaper reported.

The report, called “Threats to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” notes that the terrorist group has yet to force a drone down or disrupt its flight operations. But the newspaper said it was withholding a lot of details in the report about “classified material that could shed light on specific weaknesses of certain aircraft,” which has long been a concern of U.S. officials because the drones are operated remotely from thousands of miles away.

According to the Post, the Defense Intelligence Agency intercepted communications between al-Qaida operatives in July 2010 about how “to anticipate and defeat” drones. At that time, the terrorist group was researching how to jam GPS signals and infrared tags used by drone operators to locate missile targets.

At the same time, they were also trying to develop balloons and small radio-controlled aircraft that could monitor the flight patterns of drones, the report stated.

The U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board warned in an unclassified statement released in 2011 that inexpensive drone countermeasures could be developed by “increasingly capable adversaries” in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

According to the Post, al-Qaida has over the years attracted trained engineers, beginning with one of its top leaders and a mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was a mechanical-engineer. It was also reported by the CIA in 2010 that the terrorist group was making a great effort to recruit new engineers and technicians with knowledge in drone and missile technology.

Sometimes, the appeals by al-Qaida for technically trained and skilled engineers have been quite public. For example, the Post noted that in March a plea for help was sent out online via the jihadist magazine Azan.

“Any opinions, thoughts, ideas and practical implementations to defeat this drone technology must be communicated to us as early as possible,” the article stated.

Even though the most commonly used military drones, such as the Predators and Reapers, are difficult to even detect when flying at 20,000 feet, the report revealed that there is still a growing unease among the U.S. spy agencies about al-Qaida’s determination to find a way to defend against them.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Courtney Coren


Drone Makers gather to Defend Their Product.

Image: Drone Makers gather to Defend Their Product

Weapons systems for UAVs from Lockheed Martin are on display at the Unmanned Systems 2013 exhibition and symposium at the Washington Convention Center on Aug. 13.

By John Gizzi

On the same day that United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called for international regulation of the use of drones, manufacturers of the unmanned aerial vehicles began a four-day convention in Washington, D.C., with a robust defense of their product.

Among the highlights of the so-called “drone convention” at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center were examples of greater domestic use by civilians of the device that has become so controversial from its strikes against terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

Sponsored by the Association For Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the convention included exhibits of many robotic vehicles now used in military as well as civilian capacities.

John Palatiello, executive director of the Management Association for Private Photogrammatic Surveyors, explained that “the nonmilitary application of drones could be beneficial in so many ways.

“A family member who is kidnapped would have a better chance of finding a loved one through the use of vehicles such as this — not weaponized, of course. There is a wide gulf between armed, military drones and unarmed or pilotless aerial systems,” Palatiello told Newsmax.

“If the Boston Police Department had the use of [drones] this year, how much quicker would the Boston Marathon bomber have been apprehended?” he asked.

Palatiello said that the mapmakers and surveyors in his own organization would benefit tremendously in their work from the photographic ability of many drones.

“I understand Rand Paul’s concerns about the application of drones,” he told Newsmax. “But the use of unmanned and unweaponized aircraft by civilians would lead to greater productivity and lower cost on many fronts.”

Others at the convention noted that Congress already has authorized the integration of civil unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace with the enactment last year of the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act.

The industry is now awaiting implementation of the plan and regulations by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Outside the convention center, demonstrators from the anti-war group Code Pink picketed and denounced the drones and their makers for civilian casualties in the war on terror.

There has been no accurate count of civilian casualties from the 400 drone strikes made during the Obama administration, but UN Secretary General Ban, speaking at a university in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, said every effort should be made to avoid mistakes and civilian casualties.

“The use of armed drones, like any other weapon, should be subject to long-standing international law, including international humanitarian law,” Ban said.

But Yemeni President Rabbu Mansour Hadi has publicly praised drones, which have been used by the U.S. in his country for more than a decade, saying, “They pinpoint the target and have zero margin of error, if you know what target you’re aiming at.”

While acknowledging that the use of drones in counterterrorism strikes have resulted in deaths of innocent civilians, several participants at the convention in Washington insisted to Newsmax that the technology is being studied and applied to reduce these possibilities.

“The loss of innocent life is a reality of war and I understand this, unfortunately,” Matthew Henderson, manager of marketing and business and development at Southport Airport in Manitoba, Canada, told Newsmax. “But anything can be used in a menacing way, such as, say, any manned aircraft. But that has more to do with the user than the technology.”

Henderson pointed out that drones increasingly have a procedure under which, in a brief period, they can be recalled “in a period of 30 seconds and come home” if a target is found to have innocent civilians in the area of danger.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Rubio: Drone Strike Legislation Adds Accountability.

Image: Rubio: Drone Strike Legislation Adds Accountability

By Sandy Fitzgerald

A new plan to give independent oversight of drone strikes will give “a new layer of accountability” says Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the bill’s sponsors.

“This legislation provides a new layer of accountability and ensures the American people are informed through prompt notification to the congressional intelligence committees,” said the Florida senator.

“In no way does this bill tie the president’s hands to defend the nation or impede operators from targeting terrorists knowingly engaged in acts of international terrorism against the United States, who happen to be U.S. persons.

Rubio introduced the bill Thursday alongside Maine independent Sen. Angus King just a day after the Justice Department disclosed that targeted drone strikes killed four Americans overseas, reports Roll Call.

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The Targeted Strike Oversight Reform Act of 2013 would ensure independent oversight of cases in which the head of U.S. intelligence agency has determined that an American is engaged in international terrorism against the United States.

The act would trigger notifications and independent reviews through the Director of National Intelligence, who would establish an “independent red team” to conduct an alternative analysis and report findings within 15 days.

It would also require notification to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community and to the congressional intelligence committees concerning the terror suspect’s identity and the results of the red-team’s analysis.

King, a freshman, had previously floated a plan for a special court to oversee drone strikes against U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism. He said the bill he and Rubio are sponsoring will “ensure an independent alternative analysis” of Americans engaged in international terrorism against the United States.

“As the President takes steps to shed more light on these policies, I believe this bill will complement those efforts by providing the framework for an independent review of such consequential decisions,” said King, a member of the Intelligence committee.

Their legislation was introduced just before President Barack Obama addressed the question of drone killings in a speech at National Defense University, during which he outlined the legal rationale for targeted strikes.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Israel Grounds Drone Aircraft Fleet After Crash.

JERUSALEM — Israel‘s military has grounded a fleet of high altitude surveillance drones after one was downed over the Mediterranean Sea.

The military says it intentionally crashed the unmanned aircraft late Saturday because of a malfunction.

The military would not say how many aircraft were grounded. The planes will stay down during an investigation.

An Israeli defense official said the drone was the Israeli-made Heron 1, which flies at high altitudes and can stay in the air for about 45 hours. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

Last year, a larger Heron TP drone crashed on a routine flight.

Israel is a world leader in drone technology. Palestinians say Israel uses drones to fire missiles, but Israel does not confirm that.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Israeli Military Shoots Down Lebanese Drone.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Facebook)

An Israeli fighter plane shot down a drone from Lebanon over the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday as it was approaching the Israeli coast, the military said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was flying in a military helicopter to an event in northern Israel when the unmanned aircraft was spotted along the Lebanese coast by Israeli air defenses. His helicopter landed briefly until the interception was completed.

There was no indication from Israeli officials who provided information about the incident that Israel suspected any connection between the dispatch of the drone and Netanyahu’s flight, whose details had not been made public.

“I view with great gravity this attempt to violate our border. We will continue to do what is necessary to defend the security of Israel’s citizens,” Netanyahu said in a speech at his destination, a Druze village where he met community leaders.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the alleged aerial infiltration.

Asked whether Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Lebanese guerrilla group that sent a drone into southern Israel in October, was behind the incident, a military spokesman said an investigation was under way and the navy was trying to salvage wreckage from the aircraft.

“On my way here, in a helicopter, I found out there was an infiltration attempt by a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) into Israeli air space,” Netanyahu said in the Druze village of Julis, some 15 km (9 miles) from the Lebanese border.

“Within a short time, Israeli pilots intercepted this aircraft and shot it down over the sea.”

The military said the unmanned aerial vehicle was detected in Lebanese skies and intercepted by a F-16 fighter jet some 5 nautical miles west of the Israeli port city of Haifa.

A military spokesman said the drone had been flying at an altitude of about 6,000 feet and had been monitored by Israel for about an hour before it was destroyed by an air-to-air missile.

“We don’t know where the aircraft was coming from and we don’t know where it was actually going,” the spokesman said.

In the incident in October, a Hezbollah drone flew some 35 miles into southern Israel before being shot down by an F-16.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a war in 2006, and Lebanon has complained to the United Nations about frequent Israeli overflights, apparently to monitor the group’s activities.

On Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel would not permit “sophisticated weapons” to fall into the hands of Hezbollah “or other rogue elements” in Syria’s civil war.

“When they crossed this red line, we acted,” Yaalon said at a news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in comments widely interpreted as confirming reports that an Israeli air strike in Syria in January had targeted a Hezbollah-bound arms convoy.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.



Israel Shoots Down Drone From Lebanon.

Image: Israel Shoots Down Drone From Lebanon

An Israeli military naval ship and an Israeli air force helicopter operate next to a cruise ship off the coast of Haifa, northern Israel, Thursday, April 25, 2013. Israel shot down a drone Thursday as it approached the country’s northern coast.

An Israeli fighter plane shot down a drone from Lebanon over the Mediterranean sea on Thursday as it was approaching the Israeli coast, the Israeli military said.”I view with great gravity this attempt to violate our border. We will continue to do what is necessary to defend the security of Israel’s citizens,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

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The military said the unmanned aerial vehicle was detected in Lebanese skies and intercepted by an F-16 fighter jet some five nautical miles from the Israeli port city of Haifa.

The Israeli navy was searching for the wreckage in the sea, a statement said.

It was the second time a drone from Lebanon has been intercepted in Israeli air space in the past seven months.

Last October, an Israeli missile shot down a UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicle, sent by the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah after it flew some 35 miles into southern Israel.
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Israeli Official Says Drones Could Replace Planes.

Israel‘s air force is on track to developing drones that within four to five decades would carry out nearly every battlefield operation executed today by piloted aircraft, a high-ranking Israeli officer told The Associated Press Sunday.

The officer, who works in the field of unmanned aerial vehicle intelligence, said Israel is speeding up research and development of such unmanned technologies for air, ground and naval forces.

“There is a process happening now of transferring tasks from manned to unmanned vehicles,” the officer said, speaking anonymously because of the classified nature of his work. “This trend will continue to become stronger.”

Isaac Ben-Israel, a former Israeli air force general, said however there was no way drones could entirely overtake manned airplanes. He said there are just some things drones can’t do, like carry heavy payloads needed for major assaults on targets like underground bunkers.

“The direction is drones playing a bigger and bigger role in the air force,” he said. “In a decade or two they should be able to carry out a third or half of all missions. But there are still certain things you cannot do without a piloted plane.”

Israel is a pioneer in drone technology. Its military was the first to make widespread use of drones in its 1982 invasion of Lebanon and Israeli companies are considered world leaders and export unmanned aircraft to a number of armies, including U.S.-led forces that have used them in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The unmanned aircraft have been a major part of Israel’s arsenal in battling Gaza rocket launchers over the years. Drones were seen as crucial by giving soldiers eyes in the air, keeping watch over rooftops and alleyways in congested urban areas and notifying troops of threats or obstacles in their path. Israel insists its drones only perform surveillance missions but Palestinian witnesses have long claimed that Israeli drones fire missiles in Gaza.

The officer claimed Israel is second only to the United States in the range of unmanned aerial systems its produces. He said he was “aware” that American drones are capable of firing missiles, but refused to say whether Israeli drones could do the same.

The officer cited one technology recently unveiled: the unmanned Hermes 900 aircraft, developed by the Israeli military manufacturer Elbit Systems Ltd. and recently rolled out for Israeli military use.

It features double the performance capabilities of the previous generation of the same unmanned aircraft, the Hermes 450. It can carry up to 350 kilograms, features advanced systems of surveillance and reconnaissance and offers support to forces on the ground and at sea, according to a description of the technology on Elbit’s website.

Israel is also looking to develop small tactical satellites that warplanes could launch into the earth’s orbit, the officer said.

Unlike satellites in permanent orbit which are more easily monitored by other leading armies in the world, the tactical satellites Israel hopes to develop would be cheaper to build and less susceptible to interception because they would be launched during wartime and there would be less time for foreign armies to track their orbit, Israeli military officials said.


© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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