Aerial Warfare

Israel Ministry of Defense Deploys Oron Intelligence-gathering Aircraft

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Israel Ministry of Defense Deploys Oron Intelligence-gathering Aircraft

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Israel Air Force Oron Intelligence-gathering Aircraft
Israel Air Force Oron Intelligence-gathering Aircraft

The Oron intelligence-gathering aircraft quickly became operational during Israel’s war on Hamas and has already carried out hundreds of operational flight hours and almost 100 sorties, according to the Israel Ministry of Defense (MoD). The aircraft was developed jointly by the Israel Ministry of Defense’s research and development arm, Israeli Aerospace Industry’s Elta subsidiary, the Israel Air Force, Intelligence Corps and the Navy. It is equipped with sensors and C4I systems that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) says it will provide unprecedented intelligence capabilities across expansive terrain, enabling real-time monitoring of ground movements under diverse weather and visibility conditions.

The Oron, dubbed the MARS2 or Multi-Mission Airborne Reconnaissance and Surveillance System at Elta, was first disclosed in April 2021. The MoD announced in August 2023 that Oron had begun flight tests, describing it as the most advanced aircraft of its kind. The Oron is a Gulfstream G550 business jet equipped with an advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar produced by IAI subsidiary Elta, as well as electro-optical and signals intelligence (SIGINT) sensors and advanced data-processing systems. 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.

Israel Air Force Receives Oron Reconnaissance and Surveillance Aircraft
Israel Air Force Oron Intelligence-gathering Aircraft. (Photo by Israel Ministry of Defense)

The Gulfstream G550 is a business jet aircraft produced by General Dynamics’ Gulfstream Aerospace unit in Savannah, Georgia, US. The final commercially available G550 was delivered in June 2021 after more than 600 of the aircraft were produced. Israel has acquired a number of G550s, fitted with the IAI EL/W-2085 sensor package (a newer derivative of the Phalcon system) for Airborne Early Warning (AEW) use and named the aircraft Eitam. This aircraft is heavily modified for the AEW role by Gulfstream’s partner, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and is also called CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) by Gulfstream Special Missions Department. Israel has also acquired a number of G550s dubbed SEMA (Special Electronic Missions Aircraft) with systems EL/I-3001 integration also carried out by IAI.

The Oron intelligence-gathering aircraft serve with the 122nd squadron, which is called Nachshon in Israel. The squadron was established in 1971 and has changed roles over the years from transport aircraft and aircraft used for special operations to the use of the latest ISR aircraft. The Squadron has six planes with three aircraft used for Airborne early warning and control (CAEW or Conformal Airborne Early Warning, IAI EL/W-2085) and three are used for Signals intelligence (SEMA or Special Electronic Missions Aircraft).Their hangers already hold modified Gulfstream G-500 Shavit and G-550 Eitam. The Shavit provides intelligence to the fighter squadrons and Eitam conducts missions of air control in deep enemy territory.

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