Eilat-bound jets get anti-missile defense pods

SkyShield installed on commercial airliners servicing southern resort town due to threat of attacks from Sinai Peninsula

Illustrative. An airplane taking off from Eilat's airport, December 2012. (Moshe Shai/ Flash90/ File)
Illustrative. An airplane taking off from Eilat's airport, December 2012. (Moshe Shai/ Flash90/ File)

Missile defense systems have reportedly been installed on Israeli commercial flights servicing the southern city of Eilat.

According to a report Monday in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, the Israeli defense establishment gave the order to deploy the SkyShield missile defense systems to Arkia and Israir flights to Eilat two weeks ago, after an Islamic State-affiliated group carried out a major offensive against the Egyptian military in the Sinai.

The new defensive measure, the report said, was introduced in response to concerns that terrorist groups operating in the Sinai Peninsula may try to attack planes flying near the border between Israel and Egypt.

The Defense Ministry announced last year that it had completed testing the SkyShield system, which was deemed “100 percent successful.”

The system combines lasers and a thermal camera to thwart ground-to-air missiles and change the inbound projectile’s trajectory.

Israeli defense tech company Elbit Systems began developing the SkyShield jamming system about a decade ago, in the wake of a failed missile attack on an Israeli airliner.

Islamic terrorists fired two surface-to-air missiles at an Israeli charter plane shortly after takeoff in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002. The missiles missed their target but spurred an Israeli effort to improve countermeasures.

The Israeli government has reportedly committed to investing $76 million in developing and arming Israeli commercial aircraft with SkyShield, which can be affixed as a pod to the belly of commercial aircraft.

Such measures are only taken on a case-by-case basis, however, because of the additional wear and tear to the planes, and increase in weight and fuel cost to operate, the report said.

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