Oron: Israel set to test its most advanced spy plane yet

Israel's latest "most advanced" surveillance aircraft, the "Oron," is nearing readiness for final testing before the system goes live with the Israeli Air Force.
Christopher McFadden
"Oron" is a modified Gulfstream G550.

Wo st 01/Wikimedia Commons 

Israel's Defense Ministry has announced its plans to test its most advanced surveillance aircraft, dubbed the 'Oron,' very soon. Developed through a collaboration between the ministry's research division and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the modified Gulfstream jet test is necessary before it can be made operational by the Israeli Air Force.

"Most advanced" spy plane

The Gulfstream G550 Aerospace airplane has a suite of sensors and C4I systems that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) says will provide “unprecedented intelligence capabilities across expansive terrain, enabling real-time monitoring of ground movements under diverse weather and visibility conditions.”

The aircraft, reports Breaking Defense, is designed to track multiple targets over “great distances” in various weather conditions, he said. In 2021, when the "Oron" was still under development, it was characterized by the Air Force as a “first-of-its-kind model designated for target-gathering, classification and guiding weapons in all theaters.”

The ministry said, reports The Times of Israel, that its Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) and IAI “have fully implemented the aircraft’s intelligence systems as it proceeds toward final delivery to the Israeli Air Force.”

“This achievement represents a significant milestone in the aircraft’s development and testing program,” the Defense Ministry said. The IAF's 122nd Squadron will operate the "Oron" from the Nevatim airbase in southern Israel once the test flight phase is completed.

“The IAF’s elite 122nd Squadron fully recognizes the great responsibility of effectively utilizing this aircraft and its ability to protect the State of Israel. I am sure that the joint flights will allow the IDF to train its personnel effectively and shorten the schedule until the [Oron] aircraft is fully operational,” said Lieutenant Colonel 'Aleph,' the commander of the 122nd.

For reference, the full names of high-ranking IDF officers are rarely disclosed for security reasons.

It is unclear how many such aircraft the IDF plans to operate, and a lot of detailed information is, understandably, classified. However, the head of the DDR&D’s Missionized Aircraft Branch, Lieutenant Colonel "Yoed," has said that the "Oron" would provide the military with “game-changing capabilities to counter threats far and near.”

“The unique capabilities of the aircraft include the ability to accurately track multiple targets across a wide area of coverage, in all weather and visibility conditions, with high precision over great distances and in real-time, enabling a decisive and timely response to all threats,” he added. The "Oron" aircraft will “exemplify the combined strength of all the IDF’s various branches," said another senior IDF officer, Lieutenant Colonel “Aleph."

AI-powered too

The "Oron," known as the MARS2 or "Multi-Mission Airborne Reconnaissance and Surveillance System" by AIA0owned ELTA Systems Limited, was unveiled in April 2021. At the time, the then-head of the DDR&D, Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem said, “these systems will stream valuable data to the intelligence units. The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology will enable an efficient and automated data processing system, which will produce actionable intelligence in real-time, enhancing the effectiveness of IDF operational activities.”

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