Israel planning 'massive' drone acquisition to counter Iran threat

Programme has been approved by Defence Minister Naftali Bennett and presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drone, manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc, stands on display during the Singapore Airshow at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Plane makers and airlines are exploring new designs to reduce fuel burn and cut carbon emissions in a warming climate. Blending the wings with the fuselage to cut drag is one of several possible solutions. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg
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Israel is to buy and develop drones on a "massive" scale to increase its military edge over Iran and its allies, the army said on Thursday.

"This plan will improve the lethality of the Israeli armed forces in terms of precision and reduction of the duration of military campaigns," army chief Aviv Avikom said, unveiling the military's work plan for 2020-2024.

Called "Momentum" the programme has been approved by Defence Minister Naftali Bennett and presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It will next go to Israel's security cabinet for approval.

An outline of the plan shows that the defence establishment continues to consider Lebanon's Hezbollah, Palestinian militant group Hamas and Iran's Quds Force as its most pressing threats.

"We have before us organisations that have the capacity and structure of an army," said army spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus.

Lt Col Conricus said the militant groups were preparing for a "massive and unprecedented barrage of rockets and missiles against the civilian population of Israel and its infrastructure".

He said such attacks could come from "two or three fronts" at once.

Israel is relying on its Iron Dome missile shield to intercept short-range rockets fired mainly from the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave controlled by Hamas, which has fought three wars with the Jewish state since 2008.

For medium-range threats it has a missile defence system called David's Sling, and for high-altitude, long-range attacks it has the Arrow.

Last month Israel said it was developing a new laser-based defence system capable of neutralising all types of threats.

A 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war was the "first in history" in which the number of hours flown by drones was greater than that of piloted aircraft, a study by Tel Aviv University showed.

The drones were mainly Israeli but the Jewish state has steadily seen its foes acquire their own, narrowing the technological gap.

"We want to create a greater gap between our capabilities and those of our enemies," Lt Col Conricus said.

"We are going to acquire a quite massive amount of drones – acquire and develop and adjust and refurbish – in order to have the ability to deliver very precise firepower against an enemy that is entrenched or embedded in urban terrain."

The army did not reveal the projected cost of Momentum.

Israel is already one of the leading producers of drones in the world, along with the US and China.