An Israeli military spokesman insisted Israel Air Force air defenders detected the UAV prior to its violation of Israeli airspace on Sunday afternoon in the area of the Golan Heights. According to a July 17 statement, the Air Force continued to track the target in Israeli skies, yet failed to down the intruder, despite three intercept attempts.
"The aircraft was detected prior to entering the nation's territory and was fully tracked by the Israel Air Force," noted a July 17 statement. "From the initial investigation, it was found that three intercept attempts took place as per procedure. No hit of the target was identified."
An Israeli military spokesman said the specific type of UAV is still being investigated, as are circumstances of the unsuccessful intercept attempts.
Tal Inbar of the Fisher Institute for Strategic Air and Space Studies said Sunday's event demonstrates the fact that Israel cannot hermetically seal its skies from enemy intrusions. "Today's event was a glimpse of things to come in the event of a major conflict," Inbar told Defense News.
"In future conflicts, it will be a huge challenge for even the most advanced air defenses to discriminate from all the types of vehicles that will fill the skies.
"When the skies will be full of incoming rockets, missiles and air breathing threats — and when our own Iron Dome and David's Sling interceptors will be saturating the skies — it's hard to imagine the Israel Air Force allocating manned aircraft to shoot down incoming UAVs," Inbar said.
Responsibility for defending Israel's skies from aircraft and UAVs is shared by F-16 air defense fighters and Wing 168, the ground-based node of the service's extensively integrated air defense network that operates upgraded Patriot PAC-2 interceptors.
Prior to 2014, ground-based Patriots had historically been junior partner to IAF fighters in their joint intercept mission against air-breathing threats. But in the summer of 2014, Wing 168's Patriot force blasted three unmanned intruders out of the sky; two from Gaza and one near the Syrian border, not far from Sunday's incident.
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.