Radar and electro-optics detect launches, pinpoint threats

Kyiv begins testing missile warning system developed by Israel

Ukrainian officials say system, which does not include missile interception, to be deployed in capital in next 2 months as part of pilot program

Ukrainian emergency services employees push the remains of an S-300 missile fired by Russian forces onto a truck in Kharkiv, Ukraine, February 17, 2023. (AP/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian emergency services employees push the remains of an S-300 missile fired by Russian forces onto a truck in Kharkiv, Ukraine, February 17, 2023. (AP/Vadim Ghirda)

Kyiv has begun testing an Israel-developed early warning system to sound an alert of incoming Russian strikes as part of a pilot program in the coming months.

Deputy speaker of Ukraine’s parliament Olena Kondratiuk said the system was tested in the Ukrainian capital on Monday.

Israeli officials have not publicly commented on the matter.

Ukrainian officials said the plan was to install the alert system in the capital of Kyiv over the next two months, the Kan public broadcaster reported Thursday.

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

Ukraine had urged Jerusalem to supply it with missile interceptor capabilities, but Jerusalem has so far refused, as Israeli leaders seek to avoid overly antagonizing Russia. This hesitance appears largely 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.

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.

Last month, the Walla news site reported that officers from the IDF Home Front Command met with officers from Ukraine in Poland a number of times in recent months for talks on deploying the system. According to that report, the alert system is set for deployment first in Kyiv, and then to extend to other Ukrainian cities if deemed a success, with the aim of making it operational over the summer.

The meetings included discussions on the need to tweak the system, with the sides noting Ukraine is vastly bigger than Israel and is targeted by more advanced missiles, according to the report.

Police stand in front of a damaged hotel at the scene of a Russian strike on Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 31, 2022. (AP/Efrem Lukatsky)

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 electro-optic 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.

Overnight on Thursday, Russia fired up to 24 attack drones against Ukraine, 18 of which were shot down, Ukraine’s air force said on Thursday, a day after Moscow accused Kyiv of a drone attack on the Kremlin.

“The invaders launched up to 24 Shahed-136/131 attack drones… The Air Force of Ukraine, in cooperation with other air defense units, shot down 18 attack drones,” the air force said on Telegram.

Firefighters extinguish a fire in a building damaged after drone fragments fell over Kyiv on May 4, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Genya Savilov / AFP)

Sergiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, said that according to preliminary information “all enemy missiles and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) were destroyed over Kyiv by air defense forces.”

Popko said it was the third day of attempted strikes on Kyiv in May.

“Our city has not experienced such intensity of strikes since the beginning of this year,” Popko said.

He said that debris from the downed drones had fallen on different parts of Kyiv but there were no casualties.

Moscow on Wednesday said Ukraine had launched two drones against the Kremlin in an attempt to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin threatened a tough response.

Ukraine has denied any involvement and the country’s Western allies have also cast doubt on the report.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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