The Israeli government is asking local defense manufacturers to design and produce longer-range, more stealthy armed drones for use against Iran.
Defense sources told Breaking Defense that the new unmanned systems would provide the country with more attack options in the event of a conflict with its arch-foe.
Although the sources were unwilling to share in-depth information on the request for proposals, it was revealed that the initiative focuses on increased endurance and reduced signature.
A noisy unmanned system may not be a problem over Gaza or the West Bank, but it could cause problems on longer-range missions.
In addition, the new drones must be equipped with “special payloads” that would enable operators to upgrade mission details while the system is far from Israel.
They must also carry lightweight weapon systems with “very powerful” warheads.
Three armed drones are believed to be taking part in the initiative and are in various developmental stages.
Israeli Armed Drones
Israel’s development of tactical unmanned systems has been classified for many years.
However, in July this year the government lifted a gag order censoring any discussion of the sophisticated systems.
Since then, the public has had access to information about two armed drones in the country: the Hermes-450 (Elbit Systems) and the Heron-TP (Israel Aerospace Industries).
The Hermes-450 offers a maximum speed of 176 kilometers (109 miles) per hour and a range of up to 300 kilometers (186 miles).
It can reach an altitude of 5,486 meters (3.4 miles) and stay in the air for more than 17 hours.
Meanwhile, the Heron-TP can fly at speeds of approximately 200 knots (370 kilometers/230 miles per hour) and reach up to 45,000 feet (13.7 kilometers), making it also suitable for surveillance, reconnaissance, and intelligence gathering.
It is still unclear if both the Hermes and the Heron will be reconfigured to meet the requirements for the new longer-range, stealthy drone.
However, defense sources told Defense News that the armed drones taking part in the project will be a mix of existing platforms and new designs.