An unusual incident took place over the weekend in the airspace over southern Dead Sea.
Yael Harari and Yonatan Meroz
An unidentified aircraft invaded Israeli airspace last Thursday. A pair of “Storm” (F-16I) planes from the “Negev” squadron deployed from the Ramon IAF base to conduct surveillance and ultimately one of the planes intercepted a balloon by using air-to-air missiles.
Lt. Col. Zohar: “The storm planes were deployed to the area of the target while batteries of ground-to-air missiles were immediately put on alert. When the target was over the southern area of the Dead Sea, we received permission to shoot it down”.
This was the first time since the Second Lebanon War (July 2006) that an Israeli combat plane operated in an aerial interception, since an unmanned aerial vehicle of the “Ababil” type sent into Israel by Hezbollah was shot down by the IAF.
“This was not a standard event which is not normally a part of our training”, explained Captain Sagi, the pilot that intercepted the balloon. “Our mission was to identify the object and after we saw that it was unmanned, the instruction was received to shoot it down. It was an interesting and challenging incident, different from what we do most of the time”.
Weapons Systems Officer in reserve duty sat in the control center through the interception. Cpt. (Res.) Amir said: “the incident was conducted according to what we train since we’ve become inspectors, so there was no surprise. The target was moving quickly. After a short period of time where we discussed the many considerations and thoughts, we decided to take the storm combat planes out of their trainings. They wanted to make eye contact relatively quickly. We treat an incident like this with great severity until proven otherwise”.