The Israeli military is developing a large, classified unmanned air vehicle (UAV) with features consistent with stealthy aircraft designs, according to a knowledgable source.
The secret project involves a "fairly large" UAV in development by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the maker of the non-stealthy Heron and Eitan (which is called the Heron TP for export) UAVs, the source says.
Israel has been openly involved with stealth and minimal-detection programmes. Experts familiar with Israeli industry profess little surprise in a low-observable aircraft capability.
"There have been rumours about it, and you see Israeli companies have rolled out an array of products across the spectrum," says a former US government official. "You would expect that stealth is something they'd be interested in, particularly in light of the threats they face."
Israel, a small nation surrounded by largely hostile neighbors, has long placed an emphasis on operating in denied areas with various means. Recent airstrikes thought to involve Israel include a 2007 strike that destroyed a nuclear plant in Syria, and two more recent strikes on targets deep in Sudanese territory. Operations over denied airspace, particularly airspace protected by sophisticated surface-to-air networks, require both stealth and endurance.
"I know that they were working on small and medium-size variants [of stealth aircraft] for some years now," says one industry analyst, who declined to comment on the record. According to the analyst, IAI has been working on stealth technologies since the mid-1990s or earlier.