Oron ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance)
The Israel Air Force received the first Oron, a new intelligence aircraft, at its Nevatim base, Israel's Defense Ministry announced on 04 April 2021. the 122nd ("Nachson") Squadron received its new aircraft - the "Oron", which will grant the IAF unprecedented intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. The advanced aircraft was formally introduced in a ceremony led by Commander of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin.
The 122nd ("Nachshon") Squadron, known as the IAF's ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) squadron, operates two "Nachshon" aircraft models: "Shavit" (Gulfstream G500) and "Eitam" (Gulfstream G550). Today, the squadron received the newest member of the Nachshon family: the "Oron". "The 'Oron' is yet another manifestation of the IAF's increasing effectiveness", says IAF Commander, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin. "The aircraft adds another layer to the IAF's current operational and strategic capabilities, which allow for continued air superiority in the Middle East and an ability to defend Israel's skies and ensure its security".
"The aircraft combines several capabilities including aerial imaging, control and radar, and maritime intelligence gathering for the Navy", explains Maj. I, Deputy Commander of the 122nd Squadron. "The majority of these capabilities already exist in our squadron and the 'Maof Rahav' unit, however, with the new aircraft, we managed to condense them all onto a single flight platform".
The aircraft was developed by the Ministry of Defense Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), the Israel Air Force and the IDF Intelligence unit's naval arm and Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI). The aircraft was designed and planned based on lessons learned in past wars and operational missions. The Oron will be equipped with layers of automatic data systems based on advanced algorithms and AI, which will allow the IDF to maintain and deepen its intelligence superiority in the face of future challenges.
The aircraft's procurement process began several years ago at the IAF's headquarters. In recent years, the American aircraft company Gulfstream Aerospace manufactured the aircraft in the U.S and conducted comprehensive test flights to ensure its flight readiness. "A crew from our squadron flew to the US to pilot the aircraft and ensure it met our requirements before it landed in Israel", shares Maj. I. "Over the next two years, the plane will undergo a mission systems installation process, and then arrive at the squadron as an operational aircraft".
"We began to think about how the aircraft will be integrated into the squadron. The absorption process raises a number of questions - How will the new aircraft affect the squadron's organizational structure? Will we need to establish a new department? What units will the new department include?", continues Maj. I. "We must operationally familiarize ourselves with the aircraft. Its basic flight mechanics are similar to those of the G550 but it contains different systems. Therefore, we need to adjust our flight technique for the various missions. Additionally, we will need to construct tactics and doctrine for the new aircraft - in terms of altitude, angles, speed etc."
The Oron aircraft is based on the popuular Gulfstream G550 executive jet, a platform a high aviation performance and low maintenance costs. The aircraft will be fitted with IAI advanced radar as well as advanced intelligence systems with surveillance capabilities that will provide the IDF with unprecedented scope to gather information in real time, in all weather conditions and visibility. The Oron will enable the IDF to create a real-time comprehensive intelligence picture including deployment of ground forces, near and far, in routine times and during warfare.
Given that the aircraft can perform a wide range of operational missions, sometimes in a single sortie, the selection of personnel for each flight is an important task. "We'll need to choose the right personnel to perform several missions during a flight", explains Maj. I. "It's a great honor for all our squadron personnel to take part in this process. Whether its discussions, 'think tanks', test flights, or organizational development - we each played a role in this piece of history. This is an historic process for the squadron and the IDF as a whole, we thank everyone who took part and contributed to this project. We can't wait to fly the aircraft regularly in operational flights".
Though the "Oron" looks similar to the "Eitam", its systems are more advanced and allow for a wider range of missions. "The big improvement is in its overall capabilities and diversity of the tasks it can perform", says Maj. I. "The aircraft combines the capabilities of the 'Eitam' and the 'Shavit', reconnaissance aircraft from the Fighter Division, and advanced air-to-surface radar. The plane is not only significant to the Squadron and the IAF, but is an important asset to the entire IDF: it will conduct ISR missions for the Navy using unique systems, all in cooperation with the IDF Intelligence Directorate and the 'Maof Rahav' unit. This is a plane that accommodates all three branches of the Israeli military".
The new aircraft will be operated by the 122 Nachshon squadron for real time intelligence gathering. The squadron currently operates Shavit and Eitam reconnaissance aircraft for intelligence missions. "The ‘Oron’ is yet another manifestation of the IAF’s increasing effectiveness", says IAF Commander, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin. "The aircraft adds another layer to the IAF’s current operational and strategic capabilities, which allow for continued air superiority in the Middle East and an ability to defend Israel’s skies and ensure its security."
As stated by Maj. I, the "Oron" can stay airborne for extended periods, fly further than other reconnaissance aircraft, and hold a larger crew on board. "The plane is also capable of carrying intelligence personnel who analyze data in real-time. This enables the crew to be independent and return from a mission with a fully complete result".
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