Israel wraps up drone exercise with US, European forces

By: AFP      Published: 09:16 PM, 22 Jul, 2021
Israel wraps up drone exercise with US, European forces

Israel on Thursday wrapped up its first-ever joint international military exercise for drone operators, held two months after a conflict in Gaza that relied heavily on drone surveillance and strikes.  

The 10-day exercise at the Palmachim Air Base near a beach south of Tel Aviv included drone operators from the United States, Britain, Italy, Germany and France. 

The objective of the exercise was "to position the Israeli army as a leader in the area of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA)," said Brigadier General Amir Lazar, head of the Air Force's air division. 

The joint drill saw pilots from guest countries conduct exercises under Israeli army supervision. 

Lazar said that 80 percent of the Israeli army's operational flight hours were currently being conducted by RPAs. 

The drill was planned before Israel's conflict in May against Hamas Islamists and other Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli army official said drones carried out 6,000 operational hours during the 11 day conflict.

"This is more than ever before," said the official on condition of anonymity, adding that in some instances multiple drones were deployed simultaneously on the same target. 

The data indicated that Israel had drones operating over Gaza around-the-clock during the May 10 to May 21 conflict, carrying out both surveillance and strikes in conjunction with attack helicopters and fighter jets. 

The conflict killed 260 Palestinians including some fighters, according to Gaza authorities.

In Israel, 13 people were killed, including a soldier, by projectiles fired from Gaza, the police and army said.