Security In The Sky: The “SkyShield” System

The system is based on two types of advance technology. The first is “thermal imaging” and the second is “laser-fiber” technology Security In The Sky: The “SkyShield” System

“This is one of the biggest experiments ever conducted in Israel” One of the biggest threats to civil aviation is small shoulder-fired missiles. Recently, a solution has been proposed to solve this problem

Naomi Tzoref

Over the years, there has been an upward trend in global developments relating to safety and air security: security at airports and on airplanes has been reinforced and procedures have been renewed. But, what happens if there is an attempt to hit a plane from outside, using, for example, missiles? “El-Op” from “Elbit Systems” has an answer for this very scenario: “SkyShield”.

“SkyShield” is installed on the lower part of the aircraft and contains four sensors that enable detection, identification, tracking and, ultimately, disruption of the flight path of a missile fired in the direction of the plane on which the system is installed at a 360 degree angle. The sensors in the system are considered an advanced technological development and the ability to connect them into one system, has created a unique global innovation.

When a missile is launched towards an aircraft, for example a passenger jet on which the system is installed, it is identified by the infrared sensors developed by “Elbit Systems”, which are intended to identify heat sources. “The sensors are capable of identifying an unusual event and understand that there is a problematic point and to track it”, explains Adi Dar, CEO of “El-Op”. The sensors will track the missile until it comes close enough and then they will direct a laser beam from the system. The laser beam will divert the missile from its path and in so doing prevent possible damage to the aircraft.

How Does It Work?
The system is based on two types of advance technology. The first is “thermal imaging” and it operates according to the absorption of infrared radiation by any object. This technology is in use in other military tools, such as night observation devices.
The second is “laser-fiber” technology, which creates high-intensity laser beams and is used in many fields that require precision, such as surgeries.

In military operations, the technology is used to identify obstacles in a space, measuring heights and distances and marking targets. “It’s an optical fiber through which the laser passes. At its base, a laser beam that is intense enough to disrupt the missile system, is created”, says Dar. “The ‘SkyShield’ works completely autonomously and like many payloads on aerial platforms, it is not subject to the control of the aircrews and they do not receive any information from it directly”. The system suits all aerial platforms, from the smallest to the Boeing 747 and Boeing 777. “It is also intended to be installed on refueling and reconnaissance helicopters and jets”, explains Dar. “The system does not need anything from the platform it is installed on, expect electricity and space. That is the only connection between the platform and the system”.

Last February, a successful trial of the system was conducted, which marked the end of a long journey. Following the trial, the system will be installed on all passenger jets of Israeli airlines according to contracts signed on the eve of the trial with different airlines.
“This is one of the biggest experiments ever conducted in Israel”, adds Dar. “They examined the system against all relevant threats, most of which I cannot elaborate on, but I can say that the system was successful in every scenario. ‘SkyShield’ is one of the biggest and most complex projects ever undertaken at ‘Elbit’ and in Israel and we are excited and very pleased with the results of the trial”.