Israeli-built aerial warning system set to be deployed in Ukraine by September

Ukrainian, Israeli officials set to meet in Poland this week to work on system, which will first be deployed to Kyiv, then duplicated in other cities

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

This shows a building damaged by a drone, that was shot down during a Russian overnight strike, in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Babenko)
This shows a building damaged by a drone, that was shot down during a Russian overnight strike, in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Babenko)

The civilian aerial warning system Israel is building for Ukraine is on track to be deployed in September, a Ukrainian official told The Times of Israel Wednesday.

That timeline is weeks beyond the initial expectations of deployment over the summer, and Ukrainian diplomats and security officials are working to speed up the process.

Ukrainian and Israeli officials are set to meet this week in Poland to work on the system, as they have in recent months. The system will initially cover much of Kyiv, the official said, then will hopefully be copied in other cities.

Since the beginning of the war last year, Russia has battered Ukrainian cities with missile and suicide drone strikes.

Unlike in Israel, the system set for deployment in Ukraine will feature alerts only, without interception capabilities.

Ukraine has long sought missile interceptor capabilities, but Israel has so far refused, seeking to avoid overly antagonizing Russia. This hesitance is mainly seen as linked to Israel’s strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, where Russian forces largely control the airspace. Israel is one of the few countries that maintains relatively good relations with both Ukraine, a fellow Western democracy, and Russia.

Israeli apps alert users whenever a missile is headed into the country. (Sam Sokol)

The system in Ukraine is set for wider coverage and will trigger alerts in a general area where an incoming Russian missile is expected to hit; the system in Israel works with more precision.

Then-defense minister Benny Gantz first announced last year that Israel could supply Ukraine with the early warning system, an offer reiterated by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen during his visit to Kyiv in February.

The Israeli warning system uses a mix of radar and electrooptic devices to detect rocket, missile, and drone launches, classify the size and the threat they represent, and pinpoint on a map the areas that are in danger.

Citizens in those areas receive warnings through sirens, alerts on their phones, and messages on TV and radio.

The system has been credited with saving hundreds of lives in Israel over the years during flare-ups of violence with terror groups in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, which have launched thousands of projectiles at Israeli cities.

In recent years, the system’s accuracy has been upgraded so that it can limit its alerts to specific areas of large cities.

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