Israel Just Unveiled Its Massive Blimp to Detect Low-Flying Missiles

"It’s one of the world’s largest systems of its kind."
Christopher McFadden

Israel has begun testing a new missile detection system that is, to put it frankly, very novel. The detection system, a long-range Dew elevated radar, will be mounted on an inflatable blimp-like platform. 

Designed as an early warning aerostat, the unmanned airship will be tethered to the ground and provide Israeli forces with advanced warning of incoming threats like cruise missiles or weaponized drones. As a bonus, it should also be able to detect other potential airborne threats, like aircraft too.

The blimp will be operated by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) which will be located in an unnamed location somewhere in Northern Israel. 

Little information is available on the system at present, but it is clear that the system is still currently in its testing phase. However, it appears to be very large judging by images and videos released by Israeli official sources. 

“The Sky Dew system will be a significant component in strengthening the protection of the country’s borders in the face of a variety of threats and will contribute to the capabilities of building a more accurate and broader picture of the airspace,” explained Major General Amikam Nurkin, commander of the IAF.

HAAS at anchor
HAAS fully inflated. Source: Israeli Defense Force/Twitter

Why will HAAS be mounted on a blimp?

The basic concept is nothing new for Israel who has frequently fielded surveillance balloons to identify and track low-flying threats in the past. 

The idea is to provide Israel with a fixed airborne system that will hover at high altitudes and detect incoming long-range potential threats, like missiles. This new system will complement Israel's already impressive, tried, and tested missile defense system that helped successfully defend it during the recent 11-day Gaza war.

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During this war, you will recall, Hamas fired barrages of rockets at Tel Aviv in an attempt to overwhelm Israel's much-hyped Iron Dome Defense System. The system worked admirably, and, according to official Israeli sources, managed to intercept and destroy somewhere in the region of 90% of all incoming projectiles

In response, Israel countered with hundreds of airstrikes against identified military targets. However, according to the United Nations, the attacks killed several hundred Palestinians including over 120 civilians. Around 13 Israeli civilians were killed as part of the conflict.  

Called, the High Availability Aerostat System (HAAS), the zeppelin-inspired platform will be one of the world's largest of its kind. The system was developed by Israel's Defense Ministry with the aid of subsidiary state-owned companies Israel Aerospace Industries and TCOM, and a U.S. aerostat manufacturer.

The need for the system comes as part of Israel's mission to counter potential threats from Iran, the Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon, and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers. All of these groups boast large arsenals of rockets capable of hitting major cities within Israeli borders. 

HAAS' ability to remain in the air for long periods of time, and in various weather conditions, means this system will offer a very cost-effective means of constant air surveillance. It should also need very little maintenance once operational. While no official figures have been released on how much it has cost so far, it may well have been partially funded by the United States Government. 

Whatever the case, Israel clearly believes any investment in such a system is well worth it and will be a valuable asset in its already impressive air defense network. 

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