Hot air! Drifting to Dimona, balloon prompts IAF scramble

IDF sources say unmanned object had an engine, was flying in closed airspace in Dead Sea area; army looking into incident.

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December 17, 2010 00:48
1 minute read.
Dimona nuclear reactor

311_dimona reactor. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Fearing an attack on the Dimona nuclear reactor, Israel Air Force fighter jets on Thursday afternoon shot down a large balloon that was hovering over the southern part of the Dead Sea and slowly moving toward restricted air space in the Dimona area.

For several hours, it was unclear whether the intruder had been a genuine threat or just hot air. But later on Thursday night, IAF sources indicated that the suspicious object might have been merely a weather balloon.

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IAF radar stations had detected the flying object over the Dead Sea in the early afternoon and scrambled fighter jets to identify and intercept it, IDF sources said.

After determining that the balloon was unmanned and concerned that it might have been dispatched to gather intelligence on the reactor or might contain explosives, IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan ordered it shot down.

Airspace over the Dimona reactor – where Israel has reportedly manufactured close to 200 nuclear weapons – is restricted and is well protected by the IAF as well as surface-toair missile systems.

In October, IAF jets intercepted an Israeli ultra-light aircraft that accidentally flew into the restricted area, and accompanied it to a nearby landing strip.

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