Israeli drones use free-falling bombs up to a tonne: military source
Israeli armed drones use gravity bombs that produce no noise or smoke as they fall, making them hard for enemies to anticipate or evade, the Israeli military has said.
The largest model of the aircraft can carry up to a tonne of munitions, which can be dropped on Gaza, one of the most densely-populated parts of the world.
After more than two decades of secrecy, Israel has gone public with the existence of armed drones in its arsenal. In November, an Israeli general detailed the two corps - air force and artillery - that operate the systems in combat.
Such drones are remote-piloted, dropping bombs or carrying out surveillance before returning to base. They are distinct from the kamikaze drones that Iran said were used in a weekend attack on a defence plant in Isfahan - an incident on which Israel has declined to comment.
Briefing Reuters this week, a senior Israeli military officer said the armed drone fleet includes the passenger plane-sized Heron TP, made by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd, and Elbit Systems Ltd's smaller Hermes.
The former, the officer said, "is the heaviest drone that the IDF (the so-called "Israel Defence Forces") has, which can carry munitions, with an effective payload of around a tonne".
On Thursday, Iran accused Israel of using drones in an attack on military targets in Isfahan province.
All the drone munitions are Israeli-made, the officer said, and "come down in free-fall, and can reach the speed of sound".
Israel already uses remote-controlled weapons in the West Bank. It routinely receives criticism from rights groups and the UN for its use of advanced technologies against Palestinians.
Israeli forces began to use a drone in 2018 that can fire tear gas at protesters in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Earlier this year, Israeli forces installed a remotely controlled weapons system at a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron - inhabited by many extremist Israeli settlers – which can shoot stun grenades and tear gas as well as sponge-tipped bullets.
The officer declined to give further details on the munitions, saying only that, by design, when an armed drone attacks "no one will hear it, no one will see it coming".
This would assume enough altitude so that the drones' propeller engines can not be clearly heard on the ground, however.
In winter attacks, like Israel's brutal assault on Gaza in 2008-2009, the drones have to be flown below the clouds for their targeting cameras to work, meaning they might be heard.
"You lose the element of surprise," the officer said.
Isreal has killed thousands of civilians in bombing raids of Gaza, since Hamas took power in the Palestinian enclave over 15 years ago.
Reporting by Reuters