The Eitan can carry a ton of payload and can reach Iran's nuclear facilities, which the United Nations last week determined is hiding an active weapons program. But that does not mean these will be used as bombers. The IAF has been buying and upgrading airplanes specifically for long-distance strikes such as a potential attack against Iran. At least 50 F-15 Raam and F-16 Soufa aircraft have been converted by installing extra fuel tanks for greater range and countermeasures to defeat radar and missiles. So maybe the warplane/UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] tag team presented at the "operational acceptance ceremony" speaks to how manned and unmanned aircraft will work together on missions: The drone provides information while the manned airplanes drop the guided munitions.According to that article in Defense News [free subscription]:
Working from high altitudes, the Eitan will likely be used to provide prestrike information on targets, to eavesdrop on electronic communications and to send battle damage assessments back after an attack. It will also undoubtably be used to monitor any retaliation for the airstrike—seeking rocket launches and eavesdropping on Iran. The onboard power required to electronically jam radar and communications equipment is not in the Eitan, Israeli defense industry officials told the trade journal Defense News. But the ability to carry so much weight opens up questions about the drones' ability to conduct long-range, high-risk bombing missions on their own.
In the very long term, unmanned platforms could be converted into long-range jammers; the ministry's multiyear funding plans do not currently fund electronic warfare-specific development.Also from the Defense News article (and in plain English to boot):
For the nearer term, MoD is funding technical studies aimed at miniaturizing elements of the multiton Airborne Integrated SigInt System payload developed by IAI's Elta Systems Division for the Shavit. In parallel, MoD is working with local industry to lower the electrical needs of the payload and other on-board systems.
Sources here declined to specify how Israel's newest and largest UAV was used in the 22-day Gaza campaign, but confirmed that data from the wartime deployment sped up its operational acceptance.It would only be fitting that the war sponsored by Iran help to speed the development of a device that may be used to deal with the nuclear arms it is developing.
The Popular Mechanics article concludes:
Early literature suggested the Eitan would have a role in shooting down enemy missiles in flight as well as in bombing targets. But the craft at the ceremony featured a pod under the nose that contains only sensors, which can track moving targets at high resolution, day or night. Eitan has the eyes of a predator, but seemingly no claws. Unless, of course, the less public Israeli Eitan fleet has hidden surprises in UAVs' bays or tacked onto the wings at various hard points. But just providing information could greatly assist with an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities—especially if Israeli special forces are present on the ground. Deep in enemy territory, they would be avid consumers of such recon.One would hope that Israel would not reveal everything that it's latest UAV can do--just enough to get Iran's attention.
Of course, to really get Iran's attention, Israel will have to do something about Iran's nuclear facilities.
Technorati Tag: Israel and Drone and UAW and Eitan.