Israel using surveillance balloon to to track Kassam missile

Friday, September 10, 2004

TEL AVIV Israel's military has deployed a balloon with advanced sensors to detect and track launches of the Kassam-class short-range missile.

The tethered balloon has been flying several hundred meters over a command post just east of the Gaza Strip. The balloon was launched in July and meant to detect Kassam launches from the central and northern Gaza Strip into Israel.

Military sources said the balloon has been employed in the current Israeli military operation to track and destroy Kassam insurgency squads in the northern and central Gaza Strip. On Thursday, Israel's military expanded a three-pronged offensive against Hamas gunners who have been firing missiles and mortars toward Israeli communities, Middle East Newsline reported.

The military weekly, Bamahane, reported that the balloon was loaded with advanced sensors, cameras and transmitters. The magazine said the platform relays images of a wide area of the Gaza Strip to a command and control center.

The balloon was developed by Rafael, Israel Armament Development Authority and was said to cost $2 billion. Rafael has developed a similar balloon for use in northern Israel to track the movement of Hizbullah.

Since 2001, more than 500 Kassam missiles were fired toward Israel. The most advanced version of the Kassam has a range of more than 12 kilometers.

"The balloon is necessary for finding the Kassams," an intelligence officer identified only as Lt. Col. Yossi said. "It provides an enhanced observation over the area."

Military sources said the balloon's sensors would help pinpoint the exact location of the portable rocket launchers. Most of the launches have taken place north of Gaza City.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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