Orbiter 4 UAV, Israeli drone tested in Gaza 'appears at Saudi Defence Expo'

Orbiter 4 UAV, Israeli drone tested in Gaza 'appears at Saudi Defence Expo'
Orbiter 4 UAV, nicknamed Spark, is part of a top-secret Israeli drone programme dubbed Storm Clouds. It is being tested on the population of Gaza
2 min read
15 February, 2024
Orbiter 4 drone (top, hanging from ceiling) [Credit: Ministry of Defence Industry of Azerbaijan]

A previously classified Israeli drone, known as the Orbiter 4, has unexpectedly appeared at a recent defence exhibition in Saudi Arabia, according to Israeli media.

Developed by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, the system comprises drones designed for intelligence gathering, espionage, and even assassination missions. Its centrepiece, the Orbiter 4 drone, boasts long flight time and multi-sensor capabilities, making it difficult to detect and destroy.

The drone is being tested on Gaza in Israel's genocidal war on Gaza, where Israeli media says it played a crucial role in gathering intelligence and monitoring the battlefield, where several of its drones were downed.

Its unexpected appearance at the World Defense Show 2024 in Riyadh in early February raises questions about Israel's control over exported drone technology and the Gulf state's covert ties to Israel.

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According to Israeli website Walla, which published the claims, Azerbaijan, which holds a license to manufacture the Orbiter 4, might be responsible for its display in Saudi Arabia. 

Still, Israeli security experts warn that once exported, Israel loses control over who acquires and uses the drones, potentially posing a security risk. Further complicating the issue is the absence of a public record of drone sales to Gulf states in recent years.

The Israeli Ministry of Security, responsible for overseeing such exports, declined to comment on the report, while the drone manufacturer, Aeronautics, claimed no knowledge of the display and insisted it adhered to export regulations.

The drone, developed by Aeronautics for the Israeli Air Force, boasts impressive capabilities, including extended flight time and stealthy design.

The Orbiter 4, nicknamed "Spark" by the Israeli military, can stay airborne for up to 25 hours and carries multiple sensors, including cameras and radar. This extended endurance allows for continuous surveillance operations.

It is part of a larger, billion-dollar program called "Storm Clouds," which aims to equip the Israeli military with a fleet of advanced drones for persistent surveillance.

Israel has deployed advanced drones of varying capabilities against civilians in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel's assault has wrought destruction in Gaza, with more than 28,000 people killed, over 70% of them women and children, according to local health officials in the besieged enclave.

Saudi Arabia does not yet have diplomatic ties with Israel but the two countries are known to engage in secret security coordination, especially against Iran and common adversaries.