Israel prepares to launch giant missile and aircraft detection airship dubbed “Sky Dew”

“Sky Dew” (Image credit: IDF)

The giant “Sky Dew” aerostat carries sensors capable of identifying incoming missiles and long-range aircraft.

On November 3, 2021, the Israeli Air Force announced that it was about to deploy its balloon-mounted radar system with advanced missile and aircraft detection. The airship, one of the largest in the world according to official statements, has completed the final tests and will soon be deployed in the north of the country (the exact location and date have not been specified), to reinforce the air defenses of a region. where Israel observed a “proliferation of Iranian drones and cruise missiles“.

Called “Sky Dew”, the new technology is based on an aerostat aerial platform developed by the American company TCOM. It has been developed as a joint venture by the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the United States Missile Defense Agency in recent years.

Although Israel is already putting in place a range of ground and airborne early warning systems to detect incoming threats, the new aerostat system is intended to complement and enhance existing capabilities by placing the sensors at high altitude for long periods of time. days (similar systems can stay in flight for 20 days).

“The elevated sensor system provides a significant technological and operational advantage for early and accurate threat detection,” said Boaz Levy, CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries, who helped develop the system, according to the Israel Times.

“During several flight test campaigns carried out in recent months, we have demonstrated the exceptional capabilities of missile defense at several levels of Israel, including against cruise missiles,” said the director of the Organization. Missile Defense Officer, Moshe Patel. Multi-level defense for missile interception includes Iron Dome and David’s Sling systems for medium ranges and Arrow 3 for long ranges.

No further technical details / specs on the “Sky Dew” have been released, but the Youtube clip which shows the massive airship inflated from multiple angles.

The idea of ​​using aerostats to transport radar systems is not new. Since the turn of the century, captive “spy balloons” have supplemented traditional ground-based radars by detecting incoming threats flying too low for radars to detect. They can stay “on duty” for several days, saving money on crew, fuel, maintenance and other costs of traditional fixed-wing platforms.

In 2003, airships belonging to the Persistent Threat Detection System (PTDS) began operating in Afghanistan and Iran. According to Lockheed Martin, which produced the intelligence gathering system, in all 66 PTDS large helium-filled balloons (the last of which was delivered in 2012) were commissioned to provide Soldiers with l US Army long-range intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and communications support. The 35m PDTS can carry a payload of 500kg including electro-optical (EO) / infrared (IR) Wescam sensors, radars, communication relay systems and GPS and transfer data / images in direct to ground receivers.

The aerostat for the PTDS is smaller than the balloon used in the Captive aerostat radar system (TARS), which provides surveillance along the US-Mexico border. The PTDS aerostat is 115 feet long with 74,000 cubic feet of helium and a payload of 1,102 pounds; The TARS aerostat manufactured by Lockheed Martin is 1,640 feet long with 420,000 cubic feet of helium and a payload of 2,205 pounds.

Between 2009 and 2011, four dedicated airships were built as part of the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) led by the US military. JLENS would have had a higher payload (1,600 kg versus 500 kg) and flight ceiling (3,000 m versus 1,500 m) than the PTDS, but as a result of cost overruns, declining support for the Congress and critics that followed a broken tether that allowed a craft to dock at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., To drift in an uncontrolled 100 mile descent through Pennsylvania, dragging its tether cable that took damaged power lines and cut electricity to 20,000 homes, the program was first suspended and then interrupted in 2017.

In 2012, in Israel, an IDF observation airship crashed on the Israeli side of the Gaza border during a routine surveillance deployment when a flying civilian crop sprayer struck its cable. As a result of the incident, the balloon crashed as the crop sprayer landed safely.

David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and widely read military aviation blogs. Since 1996 he has written for major global magazines including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft and many more, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyber warfare. He has reported in the United States, Europe, Australia and Syria, and has flown several fighter jets with different air forces. He is a former second lieutenant in the Italian Air Force, private pilot and graduate in computer engineering. He wrote four books.


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