Israelis develop radar for use against birds

Special to World
Thurday, September 16, 2004

TEL AVIV The Israel Air Force has developed a radar to protect its aircraft against collisions with birds.

Officials said the radar developed was originally designed to help in weather forecasts. They said the radar was configured to track birds and warn pilots against take-offs.

The radar was one of several measures employed by the service to prevent collisions with birds. Officials said the greatest danger was that a bird would become sucked into an aircraft engine, which could result in a loss of control by the pilot.

Israel is on the route of migrating birds from Europe and Asia. Officials said nine military aircraft crashed since 1974 because of accidents with birds, particularly hawks. Three pilots were killed during that period.

"In the last few years, accidents have decreased by 67 percent," Yossi Leshem, an expert on birds who has consulted with the air force, said. "The birds continue to fly, but the aircraft have learned to avoid these areas."

Officials said the radar was of Soviet origin and deployed at a facility in Latrun, west of Jerusalem. The radar has supplied data to air force bases and pilots of approaching bird migrations.

The radar was developed by a Russian immigrant scientist, Leonid Milevich, who arrived in Israel in 1991. Officials said Milevich, a former Russian general, was responsible for 47 weather radars in the former Soviet Union and led a project in Israel to convert the weather radar to one that tracks birds.

The Latrun radar was said to provide new data online to pilots and air force bases every 15 minutes. The Defense Ministry, in a project that included Milevich and other Russian immigrant scientists, also converted the radar into a digital system.

Leshem said a collision between a six-kilogram hawk with a fighter-jet, at a speed of 1,000 kilometers per hour, would result in a crash with a force of 50 tons. He said the air force has sustained 75 accidents that have resulted in $500,000 in damage.

Another measure used by the air force was to use dogs to clear runways of birds. Officials said the three major air force bases have been supplied with dogs to scare off the birds.

The air force has been aided in a project that included the Science Ministry, Tel Aviv University and the Society for the Protection of Nature.

The Defense Ministry has established a fund that spent $660 million on research in the migration of birds since 1984. The service discussed the danger from birds during a conference on July 7.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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