Israel to place aerial reconnaissance balloon in North

The system will be able to detect aerial threats at long ranges.

Israel to launch massive aerial reconnaissance balloon in the north. (photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Israel to launch massive aerial reconnaissance balloon in the north.
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)

As Israel continues to work toward significantly bolstering its air defenses, an advanced aerial surveillance balloon has been raised high in the sky in the North to provide additional early warning capabilities against aerial threats.

Following years of development and manufacturing, the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) at the Directorate of Defense R&D of the Defense Ministry has “begun initial inflation operations” of the balloon, the ministry said in a statement.

The High Availability Aerostat System (HAAS) developed by the American company TCOM, which specializes in aerostat surveillance solutions, is one of the largest in the world and is designed to carry an improved sensor system to provide detection and early warning of advanced threats.

“In several flight tests conducted in recent months, we have demonstrated the outstanding capabilities of Israel’s multitier missile defense, including against cruise missiles,” said IMDO director Moshe Patel.

“The IMDO and MDA [Missile Defense Agency of the US Defense Department], together with the IAF and defense industries, are constantly improving Israel’s threat detection capabilities. This aerostat system will hover at high altitudes and provide exceptional, multidirectional detection capability against advanced threats.”

 Israel to launch massive aerial reconnaissance balloon in the north (credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY) Israel to launch massive aerial reconnaissance balloon in the north (credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)

The Elevated Sensor (ES) system consists of the HAAS and an advanced radar, designed to detect incoming threats at long ranges when operating at high altitudes, which “will provide additional detection and early warning capabilities to the existing operational air defense detection array deployed around Israel,” the statement read.

Israel’s air defenses include the Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets and drones; the Arrow system, which intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere; and the David’s Sling missile defense system which is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles fired at ranges of 40 km. to 300 km.

Israel also has Patriot missile batteries stationed in the North and has used them to intercept drones infiltrating into Israeli airspace from Syria. During the Gaza war in May, the Israel Air Force shot down an Iranian-made drone that had flown into Israeli airspace near the northern city of Beit She’an.

The IAF is also working toward implementing a full, permanent defensive umbrella in the North, with plans to expand throughout the entire country. Currently, there are several fixed air defense systems that are supplemented by mobile batteries.

IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin said, “The IAF has both the defensive and offensive systems to defend the State of Israel and its sovereignty.

“The ES system will be a significant component in strengthening our capabilities to defend the country’s borders against a variety of threats and will enable us to build a more accurate and broader air surveillance picture,” he said.

“The Elevated Sensor is another great example of cooperation between the Missile Defense Agency, IMDO and industry partners. The codeveloped technology and research are a benefit to both nations. Additionally, this system will further enhance Israel’s advanced threat detection capabilities to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge,” said MDA director, V.-Adm. Jon Hill.

“The ES system provides a significant technological and operational advantage for early and precise threat detection,” said Israel Aerospace Industries president and CEO Boaz Levy, adding, “This technology increases the reliability of the aerial surveillance picture, and increases efficiency against a range of targets.”

Last month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed the location of an Iranian airbase that he said was used to train Tehran’s regional proxies to operate advanced drones like the one shot down in May.

“Iran has created ‘emissary terrorism’ under the auspices of organized terror armies that help it achieve its economic, political and military goals. Iran is trying to transfer its knowledge that will enable Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon – also in the Gaza Strip – to produce advanced UAVs,” he said.

According to Gantz, terrorist operatives from those countries are being trained to fly Iranian drones at the base outside the city of Esfahan, “which is the cornerstone of Iranian aerial terrorism in the region.”

Iranian drones can reach a range of 1,700 kilometers, and their attacks have targeted assets belonging to the United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel as well as Sunni organizations in Syria and Iraq.