TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel's air force is on track to developing drones that within four to five decades would carry out nearly every battlefield operation executed today by piloted aircraft, a high-ranking Israeli officer told The Associated Press Sunday.
The officer, who works in the field of unmanned aerial vehicle intelligence, said Israel is speeding up research and development of such unmanned technologies for air, ground and naval forces.
"There is a process happening now of transferring tasks from manned to unmanned vehicles," the officer said, speaking anonymously because of the classified nature of his work. "This trend will continue to become stronger."
Israel is a world leader in drone technology. The officer claimed the country is second only to the United States in the range of unmanned aerial systems its produces.
He said he was "aware" that American drones are capable of firing missiles, but refused to say whether Israeli drones could do the same, despite dozens of witness accounts from the Gaza Strip who attest to seeing the small craft shoot missiles.
The officer cited one technology recently unveiled: the unmanned Hermes 900 aircraft, developed by the Israeli military manufacturer Elbit Systems Ltd. and recently rolled out for Israeli military use.
It features double the performance capabilities of the previous generation of the same unmanned aircraft, the Hermes 450. It can carry up to 350 kilograms, features advanced systems of surveillance and reconnaissance and offers support to forces on the ground and at sea, according to a description of the technology on Elbit's website.
Israel is also looking to develop small tactical satellites that warplanes could launch into the earth's orbit, the officer said.
Unlike satellites in permanent orbit which are more easily monitored by other leading armies in the world, the tactical satellites Israel hopes to develop would be cheaper to build and less susceptible to interception because they would be launched during wartime and there would be less time for foreign armies to track their orbit, Israeli military officials said.
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