Unmanned aerial vehicles can be found in every corner of the army: in mission planning, in reconnaissance, alongside ground forces, and even after an attack has been carried out. The head of UAV section of the operations department answers the question that has been on everyone’s mind for years: Will there soon be no more manned aerial vehicles?
Shir Aharon Bram
Many advanced armies around the world have adopted fleets of unmanned aerial vehicles. Advanced UAVs can carry out a variety of missions, without the fear of losing a pilot in the cockpit. “Unmanned aerial vehicles are involved in many missions in the IAF, both routine ones and at the moment of truth. They perform general photography missions through which targets are collected. Upon these targets, information is built that will, in turn, be used when needed”, explains Major R’, head of the UAV section of the operations department in the IAF. ״At the moment of truth, the UAVs track mobile targets. They also perform damage assessment after manned aircrafts have conducted a strike, in order to ascertain whether the mission was successfully executed”. Even land forces use unmanned aircrafts, which integrate into ground operations and provide intelligence of the area.
Among the UAV’s many advantages: the low altitude relative to a manned aircraft at which it flies, it is manufactured in Israel, runs on less fuel than a manned aircraft. It has the ability to stay in the air for a long time and, in turn, track a certain area for an extended period of time. “Sometimes, they prefer not to send a manned aircraft to high risk places, and so the UAV is an excellent solution. It’s just easier to operate and the operator doesn’t have to deal with technical issues like flying it, and can concentrate on the mission itself”, adds Major R’. ” Because there is no pilot that can be injured in all types of scenarios, there’s no reason to be afraid of the plane falling out of the sky”
The End of the Pilot Era?
Will UAVs replace manned airplanes for good? The answer to that question is not quite clear yet. In Major R’s opinion, the number of UAVs will be comparable to the number of manned planes. “There are missions in which a manned plane is still preferred, such as aerial search and rescue. But in the future, many platforms will replace heavy planes and even light planes in many areas. It’s easier to transmit information to an operator on the ground than a pilot in the air.”
With this in mind, the advantages of the UAV notwithstanding, the IAF is not planning to decommission its pilots any time soon. “There are missions where we want someone in the cockpit”, said Commander of the IAF, Major General Amir Eshel in an interview with IAF Magazine. “A big chunk of the missions will be going to the UAVs, but in general there is great significance in extreme conditions and the battlefield conditions change, it’s there where we need eyes and hands, and no less importantly, a head and a heart.”