In the past few years, the UAV formation has evolved in a rapid pace and taken on more operations that previously belonged to pilots. The UAV era in the IAF began with the “Firebee” which has been able to takeoff on Iranian, Chinese, Japanese, Canadian and American missions
Shir Aharon Bram | Assistance: Academic Officer Tamir Karkason
The first UAV to operate in the lines of the Israeli Air force was the “Firebee”(manufactured in the United States). The UAV’s first flight occurred in 1951. It was the spark that lit the fire of UAV utilization in the IAF, and today the formation is responsible for over 50% of the force’s aerial hours.
The “Firebee” UAV, which was manufactured primarily in the United States, spread its wings and has flown to many faraway places. It took off to missions of four different militaries around the world: USA, China, Israel, and Iran. The reason for this interesting conflict is that the UAV was manufactured in 1951, and its final version went on the market during the 60’s. Throughout these years, the United States had two main alliances in the Middle East: Iran and Israel. Up until the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, the U.S provided Iran with many military technology systems, amongst them–the “Firebee” UAV. It arrived in the Far East after the Vietnam War, in which China was able to retrieve several “Firebee” aircraft and rebuild them. If that were not enough, the Firebee has operated in the Canadian Armed Forces, the Japanese Independent Forces and several have even been a part of NATO.
The Firebee that Dropped a Syrian MiG
The Firebee began its way in the Israeli Air Force in the “First UAV” Squadron . After going through a series of changes in order to configure into the IAF, it began collecting intelligence and aerial pictures. Beyond the usual missions it conducted through the years, the UAV has another important achievement during its IAF service–bringing down a Russian MiG.
On May 14th, 1981, a Firebee UAV headed out to an intelligence mission in Syria. The Syrians, who were familiar with the Israeli UAVs and wanted to prevent the mission from succeeding, brought out combat airplanes in order to take the plane down. The UAV was able to escape the combat airplanes and return to Israel safely, though one of the Syrian MiGs wasn’t as lucky: During the attempt to attack the UAV, it flew behind it. The UAV lowered its speed and dropped to the ground and as the Syrian MiG spun and the pilot had to abandon his plane. As the UAV returned to Israel, the pilots of the “First Squadron” drew a “killed” sign on it. A few weeks later, the UAV formation got an official “kill” certificate.