Israel has pulled from service one of its most battle-proven military aircraft. The Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunship, which served with distinction in a long line of campaigns since the mid-1970s, is being replaced … with drones.

The news comes as no surprise to close observers of the Israeli air force. In fact, the last front-line Cobra squadron stood down in the summer of 2013. However, officials within the military only confirmed the news in May.

At first glance, the retirement of the AH-1—known in Israeli service by its Hebrew name Tzefa, or “Viper”—seems to make sense. After all, Israel’s attack helicopter fleet has for some years included the much more modern Boeing AH-64 Apache. […]