The Israeli Air Force Officially Introduces The “Oron”: A Highly-Modified G550 With “Unprecedented ISR Capabilities”

Israeli Air Force Oron aircraft
The new G550 "Oron" of the Israeli Air Force. (Image credit: Amit Agronov/IAF)

According to the Israeli Air Force, the new G550 “Oron” combines the capabilities of several different ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft in a single platform.

On Sunday Apr. 4, 2021, the Israeli Air Force formally introduced the “Oron”, a new G550 aircraft that has been extensively modified to “grant the IAF unprecedented intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.” The advanced platform has been assigned to the 122nd “Nachson” Squadron at Nevatim AB in central Israel, north of Dimona, where a ceremony led by the Commander of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, was held.

“The ‘Oron’ is yet another manifestation of the IAF’s increasing effectiveness”, said Maj. Gen. Norkin. “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”.

The 122nd is the IAF’s ISR squadron and operates two “Nachshon” aircraft models: “Shavit” (Gulfstream G500) and “Eitam” (Gulfstream G550). The “Oron” received today appears to be a new variant of the G550. “The aircraft combines several capabilities including aerial imaging, control and radar, and maritime intelligence gathering for the Navy”, explains Maj. I, Deputy Commander of the 122nd Squadron. “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”.

The aircraft still wears the U.S. registration N552GD and has been delivered to the IAF flying from Savannah, Georgia, home of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, to Nevatim via Shannon, Ireland, on Mar. 16, 2021.

The route of N552GD on Mar. 16, 2021. (Image credit: Flightradar24.com)

Externally, the “Oron” is similar to the “Eitam”, the G550 CAEW. This is a sort of mini-AWACS equipped with 2 L-band antennas, on both sides of the fuselage, and 2 S-band antennas, on the nose and tail of the aircraft. The antennas are part of a EL/W-2085, a Phalcon and Green Pine (used for the Arrow Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile Missile, ATBMM) derivative. However, its systems are more advanced and allow for a wider range of missions, says the IAF on its website. “The big improvement is in its overall capabilities and diversity of the tasks it can perform”, says Maj. I. “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 cooperation with the IDF Intelligence Directorate and the ‘Maof Rahav’ unit. This is a plane that accommodates  all three branches of the Israeli military”.

Interestingly, the aircraft has also a longer endurance and range, and is operated by a larger crew: among them there is also intelligence personnel whose role is to analyze data in real-time to shorten the OODA (observe–orient–decide–act) loop.

Data collected through ISR operations is vital to support real operations and air strike combining kinetic assets with weapons systems carrying pioneering Electronic Warfare and cyber technologies. As proved by the 2007 success of Israeli Air Force’s Operation Orchard against a Syrian nuclear installation, largely attributed to effectiveness of the Israeli Electronic Warfare platforms that supported the air strike and made the Syrian radars blind. Some sources believe that Operation Orchard saw the baptism of fire of the Suter airborne network system against Syrian radar systems.

The IAF has invested a lot in cutting edge ISR platforms to achieve the Information/Intelligence superiority required to face the multiple internal and external threats. These ISR platforms embed custom, domestic sensors, integrated by Israeli companies, and in some cases, the resulting aircraft have also been exported (as the G550 CAEW, used also by Italy and Singapore). At that respect, it would be interesting to understand whether some of the “Oron” sensors will make their way to Italy’s JAMMS (Joint Airborne Multi-sensor Multi-mission System) aircraft, the Italian platform designated to replace the single G-222VS (Versione Speciale – Special Version) that was equipped for SIGINT missions in the 1980s.

A front view of the “Oron”. (Image credit: Amit Agronov/IAF)
About David Cenciotti 4406 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.