The secret Israeli drone that is operating in Gaza
AI generated image of an Israeli drone, for illustrative purposes.

“Storm Clouds,” Israel’s innovative aerial surveillance system, marks a milestone in military intelligence operations.

Deployment and capabilities of the “Storm Clouds System” in a war context

The so-called  “Storm Cloud System,” one of the Air Force’s stealthiest innovations, has recently been declassified, revealing its first use in the  War of the Iron Swords. This system, comparable to a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles ( UAV ), is structured as a key tool for continuous intelligence surveillance over areas of strategic interest.

Its development, the result of a multi-million dollar collaboration exceeding one billion shekels between the Air Force and the ground forces, is led by Squadron 144 under the aegis of the then Chief of the General Staff, Aviv Kochavi.

At the heart of this technology is Aeronautics ‘ Orbiter 4, a  UAV  with outstanding features that was introduced in 2016. Despite its wingspan limited to 5.4 meters, the  Orbiter 4  is capable of long flights of up to 25 hours, according to specifications.

From the manufacturer, which makes it difficult to detect and increases operational and cost efficiency. This  UAV can carry two types of sensors simultaneously, including cameras and surface radars, in addition to advanced functionalities such as maritime radar.

Rafael’s acquisition of Aeronautics, manufacturer of the Iron Dome, was largely motivated by the advanced capabilities of Orbiter 4, known within the  Air Force  as “The Spark.” This  UAV  has not only attracted attention at the national level but has also been exported to countries such as Azerbaijan, even before its integration into the  “Storm Clouds” project.

International implications and export control of Orbiter 4

The presence of the  Orbiter 4 at the World Defense Show 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, evidences the expansion of its market, highlighting Saudi Arabia’s interest in advancing the weapons industry and forging international alliances.

Azerbaijan’s acquisition of this model and its licensing for local production raises questions about compliance with licensing terms, especially when offered to nations considered adversaries by Israel.

The regulation of Israeli defense exports, carried out by the  Defense Export Directorate of the  Ministry of Defense, has allowed the sale of air defense systems and cyber defense solutions to several Persian Gulf states. However, the distribution of UAVs, such as the  Orbiter 4, to these regions has not been publicly acknowledged, raising concerns about  Israel’s ability to monitor the distribution of advanced weaponry effectively.

The tension between contractual restrictions and maintaining arms relations with  Azerbaijan, a country that has demonstrated significant interest in Israeli military technology, including the acquisition of  Barak-8 systems and spy satellites, reflects the challenges in managing arms exports.  Aeronautics has responded to concerns, ensuring its adherence to export and marketing regulations established by the Ministry of Defense.