The IDF has completed development of new capabilities for intercepting incendiary balloons and kites that is likely to help prevent attacks against Jewish communities bordering the Gaza Strip.
"We have attained the ability to intercept kites, and we also have very good capabilities for the threat of incendiary balloons. We have several interception methods, some in the very basic development stages, others already for immediate use in accordance with the operational field needs of the Gaza division," said Col. Nadav Livne, the commander of the Israeli army's Matmon unit -dedicated to technology R&D for IDF ground forces.
The IDF's new capabilities against the threat from incendiary and explosive balloons and kites are based on a smart rifle sight called Pegion (dagger) developed by a company named Smart Shooter from Kibbutz Yagur in cooperation with the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure in the Ministry of Defense.
The sight improves fire from assault rifles carried by soldiers that make it possible to accurately strike targets moving at high speed. Such accuracy was unavailable until recently, because the sights previously mounted on weapons did not guarantee such accuracy against moving targets or in shooting at stationary targets following great physical effort.
The Pegion sight is an electro-optic system that makes it possible to follow a moving target in various scenarios, such as in the case of balloons and kites carrying explosives or incendiaries into Israeli territory. Based on the rapid mathematical calculations that it performs through computer software, it determines when the weapon on which it is mounted should shoot at the target, so that the first bullet fired at the target will strike it accurately.
The systems is built so that as soon as it is operated, it will not allow the soldier pulling the trigger to shoot at all at a target if it does not identify an accurate hit. Pegion is designed to hit targets at a range of hundreds of meters, with an emphasis on reducing potential damage to bystanders in urban warfare. Smart Shoot is currently developing a new and more advanced version that is believed to be lighter.
The IDF and the Ministry of Defense were enthusiastic about the new sight long before they had to face the problem of balloon and kites from the Gaza Strip. They installed it among combat soldiers in the Golan, Paratrooper, and Givati Brigades in a pilot that tested its capabilities in the field. The pilot was successful, and the Ministry of Defense ordered thousands of such sights from Smart Shooter in recent months. The volume of the deal was not disclosed.
The problem of explosive and incendiary kites and balloons began to concern the IDF last summer, after fires were caused daily in the communities bordering the Gaza Strip. Dozens of acres of agricultural land and natural groves were burned, and the Ministry of Defense was helpless against this growing threat. The threat later expanded after explosives were also attached to the balloons and kites.
The IDF deployed forces at many points along the Gazan border, and operated high-speed drones in an attempt to reduce the threat and trap the balloons and kites on their way to Israel. The drones, some of which are capable of traveling at up to 150 kilometers an hour and are highly resistant, hit hundreds of kites and balloons, thereby preventing many fires in the area around the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, these achievements were a drop in the ocean of the large numbers of kites and balloons launched against Israel at all hours of the day and night.
"There is no hermetic solution," Livne said. "There is always a learning competition between us and the enemy that includes assessment of the capabilities the other side, which is sophisticated, and learns quickly. Our job is to bring relevant technology as a solution."
According to Livne, additional new capabilities that will improve the IDF's ability to cope with the threat of balloons and kites will soon be included in regular defense activity in the area. He declined to provide details about the future developments, which among other things include the ability to track the place where balloons and kites land, making it possible to reach them and neutralize the explosives that they carry.
Livne says that additional innovative methods will be put into the field that will make it easier for IDF forces to cope with the weekly riots at the various friction points along the Gaza border. These events feature thousands of rioters gathering close to the fence, burning tires and trying to damage IDF defense infrastructure in the area. "The enemy's change in tactics and innovation requires us to bring new solutions to the field. The task of tracking a kite or balloon, whether it is in the sky or has already landed, requires a great many technologies that have to be combined and made operational," Livne said.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on April 28, 2019
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