This week (Monday), a ceremony was held to reopen the 144th Squadron, which operates UAVs at Hatzor Air Force Base. The ceremony was attended by the Chief of the General Staff, LTG Aviv Kohavi, the Commanding Officer of the Israeli Air Force, Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, representatives of the Israel Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Defense’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Administration, senior officials of Israel's defense industry, additional commanders and soldiers.
The squadron will be the first to operate the “Spark” - a new and advanced UAV in the IAF, as part of the “Storm Clouds” Array, set to launch within the IDF.
The “Storm Clouds” Array, and primarily the “Spark” UAV, is expected to grant air and ground forces with network-based connected intelligence capabilities, which will facilitate the transfer of information, rapid contact and operational effectiveness. This is a new, pioneering capability that will alter the battlefield and open the gate for fifth generation UAVs.
The 144th Squadron was originally established in 1972 as a fighter squadron and initially operated IAI “Nesher” aircraft. The squadron took an active and meaningful role in the Yom Kippur War, during which it shot down 40 enemy aircraft with no losses. Five years later, the squadron began using IAI "Kfir" fighter jets, and in 1981 the squadron moved to the Ovda Air Force Base. During its active years, the squadron also moved to the Hatzor Air Force Base and received F-16 aircraft.
The squadron closed in 2005, and was re-established yesterday (Monday) as a UAV squadron that will operate at Hatzor Air Force Base.
The establishment of the 144th Squadron is an example of the Chief of the General Staff, LTG Aviv Kohavi’s decision to increase the number of UAVs in the IDF, and for tactical and operational use in particular. This was part of the IDF’s multi-year "Momentum” plan. The 144th Squadron brings the IDF advanced capabilities to expose the enemy and operate drones and UAVs to the fullest extent.
Chief of the General Staff, LTG Aviv Kohavi said: “The 144th squadron embodies innovative concepts that will break through everything we understood in the past and lead us into the future. We are in need of this squadron as the reality in the field is changing and the enemy is operating from civilian spaces, making it more difficult to identify and strike. I wish you great success. I am glad to entrust this innovative and important project in your hands.”
Commanding Officer of the Israeli Air Force, Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar said: “Today the 144th Squadron reopens with a decade’s worth of new capabilities, 17 years after being closed in 2005. The squadron is the practical translation of the IDF's concept of victory over its enemies. It will operate a multi-branch UAV array, widely distributed and decentralized to all who require it. These are vital and groundbreaking moves happening in the Israeli Air Force- moves that will utilize the IDF's modern combat tactics in light of its concept of victory. Few militaries around the world possess such capabilities.
As I look at you today, the soldiers of the 144th Squadron, with the 'spark' in your eyes, and alongside your new commander, I know that we have it all in our hands. Go forth and succeed, I wish you great success in establishing the squadron and its activity in the future."
Commanding Officer of Hatzor Air Force Base, Col. T said: “The 'blue and green' steel wires (air and ground cooperation) of the 144th Squadron which opens today are intertwined, and are a strong muscle in the arm of the IDF and the capabilities of the State of Israel. By joining forces, a strong and high-quality fighting frame will be built. This frame will integrate into the pursuit of victory and connect between the ground and the air, as well as further dimensions. The squadron will strengthen the IDF and its ability to defeat the enemy on the day it is called upon."