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U.S.-Israel Cooperation Countering Unmanned Aerial Systems

Unmanned Aerial Systems

Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, shows a piece of an allegedly Iranian drone shot down by the Israeli Air Force.

For the first time, the National Defense Authorization Act features a section on U.S.-Israel cooperation in countering unmanned aerial systems, inside fiscal 2019 version.

The cooperation will identify “capability gaps” in the U.S. and Israel in countering UAVs and find projects to handle those gaps to boost U.S. and Israeli security. The new cooperation envisions funding for research and development efforts and identifying costs that foresee close cooperation modeled on previous successful programs that Israel and the U.S. have collaborated on, including missile defense and anti-tunneling initiatives.

Israel and the U.S. happen to be at the forefront of air defense cooperation for years. U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Mike Johnson introduced in February a bill titled “United States-Israel Joint Drone Detection Cooperation Act.” Parts from the bill were included within the NDAA passed in both houses of Congress in July.

“I am honored to own our bill included inside NDAA also to see it signed into law by President Donald Trump. This is an important step not merely for strongest ally inside the Middle East as well as the United States as well,” Johnson said in July. The president signed the NDAA into law on the afternoon of Aug. 13.

The initiative foresees “joint research and development to counter unmanned aerial vehicles which will serve the national security interests from the United States and Israel.” Included as Section 1272 with the final NDAA given to the president on Aug. 3, the cooperation contains five parts, including identification in the capability gaps that exist, identifying cooperative projects that might address the gaps, assessing the expense in the research and development, and assessing the expense of procuring and fielding the capabilities developed.

Reports around the cooperation will be listed in the congressional defense committees, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as well as the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The threat of drones has risen recently. On Feb. 10 an Iranian-made drone entered Israeli airspace at the northern city of Beit Shean. It had flown from the T4 air base in Syria. Israel identified and tracked the drone from Syria and sent an Apache helicopter to shoot it down. The drone was revealed being armed with explosives.

Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom said within an interview in April how the drone was sophisticated and “an exact replica with the U.S. drone that fell in their territory,” referring to the American RQ-170 Sentinel, that has been downed in Iran this year. Iran developed two drones based for the Sentinel, one called Shahed 171 as well as an armed version dubbed Saeqeh, which debuted in 2016.

In 2012, Hezbollah used a drone to try and accomplish surveillance in the Dimona nuclear reactor in southern Israel. “It’s not initially and this will ‘t be the last,” warned Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Conflict Armament Research reported in March 2017 that kamikaze drones using Iranian technology were used by Houthi rebels in Yemen against Saudi Arabia and also the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has sought to create awareness of this threat throughout the conflict in Yemen, where a Riyadh-led coalition is fighting the Houthis.

Drones were also utilised by the Islamic State group to fight U.S.-led coalition forces in Syria and Iraq. And Afghan officials reported an Iranian drone entered their airspace in August 2017.

In September 2017, Israel used a Patriot missile to down a Hezbollah drone. Israel used Patriot missiles twice to down Syrian UAVs nearby the Golan Heights demilitarized zone in July 2018.

The U.S. reportedly used an F-15E Eagle to shoot down an Iranian-made Shahed 129 drone in June 2017 in Syria. The drone was heading for the U.S. base at Tanf, which is in Syria near the Jordanian border.

A systematic examination of the emerging drone threat is inside works. The U.S. Defense Department has become allocating resources to counter UAVs, with U.S. Central Command requesting as much as $332 million within the next five years for efforts to counter drones. The U.S. Army has become trying to find new missiles to defend against a variety of threats, including drones. This will are the Expanded Mission Area Missile and may even include other Israel missiles for example the Tamir interceptor to be used using a multi-mission launcher.

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