With newly war-tested batteries of drone-killing Patriots, air defenders of Israel Air Force (IAF) Wing 168 are earning equal footing with F-16s in guarding the skies against new and growing unmanned threats.

The Wing’s Patriot force forms the ground-based node of Israel’s extensively integrated air defense network — historically junior partner to IAF fighters in their joint intercept mission against air-breathing threats.

But as traditional threats from fast-flying fighters and other manned aircraft give way to a surging new spectrum of slow, potentially combat-equipped UAVs, Wing 168 and its US-built force is proving a prime time option for frontline defense. […]