“For the first time since the arrival of the “Patriot” in Israel in the 90’s, the missile defense system intercepted a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) which penetrated Israeli territory from Gaza Strip. IDF forces are currently combing the area of the interception”. That was the report that stuffed the news and social networks a year ago this week, when “Patriot” operators shot down two hostile UAVs which penetrated Israeli territory.
Ever since, the Air Defense Division has been drawing conclusions and preparing for next time, which according to the evaluations of officials in the division include UAVs attempting to penetrate Israeli skies.
“We have been ready for this threat for 23 years, since the arrival of the ‘Patriot’ system”, says, Major Hanan Klachman, an officer in the division. “We are prepared for any threat from any direction. A hostile UAV can cause a considerable damage in a few minutes. We are watching every direction, every arena, 360 degrees”.
Interception Capabilities Significantly Improved
The main mission of the Air Defense Division’s “Sky Defense” Wing, which includes the “Patriot” batteries, is protecting the Israeli skies from hostile aircraft. It is also in charge of defending Israel from missiles. A year ago, after over two decades of operation, the soldiers of the wing intercepted enemy aircraft for the first time.
The first incident took place during Operation “Protective Edge”, where a UAV breached Israel’s aerial territory. After it was found out that the UAV carries explosives, the order to shoot the target down was issued. “We drew many conclusions from the last interceptions of the ‘Patriot'”, says Lt. Col. Erez Elimelech, an Operations Officer from the Air Defense Division. “During the last year we have significantly improved our interception skills also over populated areas, without damaging civilians”.
IAF’s Air Defense Division holds additional defense systems which together provide maximum protection to the Israeli citizens: The “Iron Dome” and “Arrow” systems which operate as part of the “Active Defense” wing in the force. “We have created synergy between the systems and learned to cooperate in the best way. We’ve examined the different systems’ suitability to the different targets as well as their ability to convey an alert. We have also learned to match specific ammunition to specific targets”, adds Major Elimelech”.
“We’ve broken the glass ceiling”
Officials in the “Patriot” batteries refer to these operational interceptions as “breaking the system’s glass ceiling”.
“Up until the first operational interception there were two events where IAF force shot down hostile UAVs, but that was done by fighter jets”, said Major Klachman. “Once the controller ordered the ‘Patriot’ system to intercept the target, in was like a breaking of a glass ceiling. The system eventually responds immediately and efficiently. The system is ready to face other threats”.