The military officially received a massive new balloon equipped with an advanced missile and aircraft detection system from the Defense Ministry on Tuesday.
The radar system, deployed in the north on an unspecified date, is part of a general effort by the Israeli Air Force to improve the country’s air defenses, particularly in the north, due to the proliferation of Iranian drones and cruise missiles in the region.
The detection system, dubbed “Elevated Sensor” or “Sky Dew” in Israel, is deployed at high altitudes to detect incoming long-range missiles, cruise missiles and drones, officials said.
Israel already has an array of radar systems to detect incoming threats, but the new aerostat is intended to complement and improve existing capabilities by placing the sensors at high altitudes.
During a ceremony Tuesday, the system was officially handed over to the military and began operational use under a new Air Force unit, bearing the same name as the system.
Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin hailed the new system, saying the unit “would allow [air traffic control] to build a more accurate and wider aerial surveillance picture.
He added that the system would “make the Air Force better prepared and help it continue its mission – keeping Israel’s skies safe.”
“The ‘Sky Dew’ system was a difficult task that we set ourselves a decade ago,” said Israel Missile Defense Organization director Moshe Patel. As it becomes operational, it “changes reality”, he said.
“This aerostat system will navigate at high altitudes and provide exceptional multi-directional detection capability against advanced threats,” Patel added.
The Sky Dew aerostat, one of the largest of its kind, was developed in a joint venture between the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the United States Missile Defense Agency during of several years.
Vice Admiral Jon Hill, director of the US Missile Defense Agency, said the system was aimed at bolstering Israel’s “qualitative military advantage”, a technical term referring to the country’s superiority in the region, that the United States is legally bound to maintain.
The Israeli military fears that in the coming years this superiority will be tested as Iranian-made and designed drones and cruise missiles flood the Middle East, posing a greater threat to Israel than the simple rockets that the terrorist groups in the region had until now. .
Military officials said earlier this month that Iran’s “drone terror” was a new and global problem, accusing Tehran of directly attacking military and civilian targets in the Middle East.
The Israel Defense Forces have confirmed intercepting at least four Iranian drones heading towards Israel or the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent years.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.