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Israeli F-16 downs another drone from Lebanon

April 30, 2013 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Israeli military says one of their F-16s shot down an unmanned aircraft sent into Israeli airspace by Hezbollah militants. The threat was detected at 6,000 feet over the Mediterranean sea on April 25th and was destroyed shortly after by an air-to-air missile.

Picture taken from the back seat of an Israeli F-16B. [Photo by Amos Dor]

The encounter occurred at 13:30 local time. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was flying in a military helicopter to an event in northern Israel when the unmanned aircraft was spotted along the Lebanese coast by Israeli air defences. His helicopter landed briefly until the interception was completed.

IDF spokesman Brig-Gen Yoav Mordechai said that after the Air Force ensured that the aircraft was hostile, a commander gave the order to shoot it down, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The UAV was “successfully downed” five nautical miles off the coast of the Israeli city of Haifa, a statement on the IDF website said. It stated that the Israeli navy was searching for the wreckage in the sea. It was not immediately clear whether the drone was armed or not.

The interception was made not far from the coastal border between Israel and Lebanon. There is no evidence to suggest the UAS was armed or that it was aimed at an Israeli offshore pumping rig which has recently started to extract natural gas from the Tamar under-sea reservoir. The Israeli air force is operating special systems to protect this potential target for terror organizations.

Hezbollah issued a statement denying it sent a drone into Israeli airspace. Lebanon has complained to the United Nations about frequent Israeli overflights, apparently to monitor the group’s activities.

Israel’s latest interception of a UAS is the fifth such action to have been performed by its air force in the past decade. Last October a UAS was destroyed over Israeli territory, after being flown from Lebanon some 35 miles into southern Israel. In November 2011, an unmanned aircraft – later identified as a Seeker – was also shot down by an Israeli F-16, having been launched from Lebanon. An Iranian-made Ababil UAS that was being operated by Hezbollah during fighting on the Israeli/Lebanese border was also destroyed by an F-16 in 2006, with its debris falling into the Mediterranean.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in 2006 that resulted in a stalemate.

Since November 2004, the air force has fielded additional sensors that have improved its capability to detect unmanned systems trying to enter Israeli airspace

Additional images:

The first Israeli F-16I rolling out of his shelter for an early configuration flight [IDF/AF photo]

IDFAF F-16C block 30 #388 from tayeset 110 was hit by shrapnell during an attack over Lebanon on December 12th, 1989. [IDFAF photo]

IDFAF F-16D block 30 #074 from 109 sqn coming back to landing in its base. Note the kill mark, scored against the Hizballah UAV during the 2nd Lebanon War which took place back in 2006. [Photo by Shimon Mental]