‘Sky Defender’ protects flights to Eilat against missiles from Sinai


Arkia Israel and Israir Airlines, which share the route to Israel’s southern tourism Mecca Eilt, have received a protective system against ground-to-Air missiles. The upgrade was installed for fear of terrorist organizations operating in the Sinai who might try to harm Israeli passenger jets flying near the border with Egypt, Yediot Ahronot reported Monday.

The order to install the systems on planes was issued two weeks ago by the security apparatus, in the days when ISIS-affiliated Islamists attacked Egyptian army and police bases in the Sinai. In recent days, Israelis flying to Eilat have noticed a prominent addition to the belly of the Israeli passenger aircraft.

The anti-missile defense system, known as Magen Rakia (Heb: Sky Defender), is an active protection system for civil aircraft against missile attacks, developed by El-Op (a subsidiary of Elbit Systems). The Magen Rakia system incorporates advanced fiber-laser with thermal imaging technology manufactured by Elbit, to produce a strong signal that jams a number of wave lengths, causing infrared-guided shoulder-fired homing missiles to stray from their path and lose their target.

The system is mounted inside a pod, on the belly of the aircraft. It has four sensors that allow detection, identification, tracking and ultimately disrupting the orbit of each rocket fired towards the airplane.

When a missile is launched at the plane, it is perceived and recognized by the infrared sensors. The sensors follow the missile until it reaches the appropriate distance, then directs at it a laser beam that “blinds” the missile’s guidance system “eye,” causing the missile to veer off course and miss the plane.

Last February, Elbit and the Ministry of Transportation conducted a final, successful test of the system, which has proven its effectiveness against a variety of threats. This was followed by a process of fitting Israeli passenger planes to carry the system.

Israel has committed $76 million to the development and procurement of the new system.

In recent days, several Arkia and Israir Boeing 757 and Airbus A320 planes began to carry the system, and additional installations are in the works.

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