IAF receives electro-optic system

New 'Sniper' unveiled after air defense forces were put on alert over 5,000 times in 2007.

Sniper system 224.88 (photo credit: Haggai Huberman)
Sniper system 224.88
(photo credit: Haggai Huberman)
Faced with an increasing number of cases in which jets are scrambled to intercept aircraft that fail to comply with guidelines as they enter the country, the IAF's Air Defense Forces have acquired a new optical system capable of spotting aircraft from over 70 kilometers away. Called "Sniper," the new system became operational late last month and was put on display for reporters on Tuesday at an IAF base near Palmahim. The system consists of two cameras capable of night vision, which enable operators to see and track aircraft moving at hundreds of kilometers an hour from dozens of kilometers away. The system, which was developed by the Israeli defense industry, will be stationed next to all of the Patriot missile batteries deployed throughout the country to intercept enemy or suspicious aircraft. The decision to develop the system was made following a sharp increase in recent years in the number of incidents of air defense forces being put on alert due to suspicious behavior by civilian and military aircraft. In 2004, for example, air defense forces were scrambled 2,349 times, compared to 4,977 in 2006 and 5,743 in 2008. Alerts are issued to forces in the case of a plane that does not respond to air traffic control communications 1,000 km. from Israel. Forces can also be alerted in cases of suspected terrorist hijackings, such as in April 2007, when the IAF came close to intercepting a Continental Airlines plane with which Ben-Gurion Airport had lost contact. "This increase in alerts is a result of the ever-changing security reality in Israel and because air defense forces are more heavily deployed throughout the country today than they were several years ago," the officer said. According to the officer, the Sniper system will help Patriot missile teams identify aircraft, and assist field commanders in deciding whether to intercept the planes.