The Israeli Air Force’s (IAF’s) intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) unit, No 122 ‘Nachshon’ Squadron, has accepted its first Gulfstream G550 'Oron' – the third variant of its GV/G550 Nachshon family.
The unit formally received the aircraft, G550 Oron – US registration N552GD (c/n 5552) – during a ceremony on April 4 at its base at Nevatim. The aircraft had arrived at Nevatim the previous month, on March 16, after routing from the US via Shannon Airport, Ireland. It was cancelled from the US register the following day, but its Israeli serial has yet to be confirmed.
The Squadron already operates two other Nachshon variants – the GV 'Shavit' and G550 'Eitam', of which three and two, respectively, are in service. IAF Commander, Major General Amikam Norkin, said at the ceremony: “The Oron is yet another manifestation of the IAF's increasing effectiveness. 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.”
Major I, Deputy Commander of the 122nd Squadron, explained: “The aircraft combines several capabilities including aerial imaging, control and radar, and maritime intelligence gathering for the Navy. 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.”
Though externally 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 Major I.
He continued: “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 co-operation with the IDF Intelligence Directorate and the 'Maof Rahav' unit. This is a plane that accommodates all three branches of the Israeli military.”
Over the next two years, the aircraft will undergo a mission systems installation process before arriving at the squadron as an operational aircraft. The Israeli Air Force states that this will give this wide area persistent surveillance aircraft unprecedented capabilities. Its cutting edge sensors and radar system capture vast areas for real-time ground and maritime surveillance.
The Oron’s systems will be used to produce comprehensive intel assessments including the deployment of enemy forces and terrorist organizations. The development programme is led by the Directorate of Defense R&D in the Ministry of Defense in collaboration with IAI and the Israeli Defence Forces.