Israel's Defense Ministry on Wednesday unveiled the latest upgrade to its anti-air defenses, citing a heightened continued threat from Iran's ballistic missile arsenal and increasingly sophisticated drones, also possessed by Lebanon's Iran-backed ally Hezbollah.
A large new high altitude blimp called "Sky Dew" is set to be launched, which is equipped with a radar-based system in order to provide early detection for any inbound long-range missiles or drones. The balloon's sensors will complement existing anti-air defenses and radar, which includes the Iron Dome missile system, according to Israeli media reports.
One of the key developers, Israeli Aerospace Industries, described in a statement that "The elevated sensor system provides a significant technological and operational advantage for early and precise threat detection."
"This technology increases the reliability of the aerial surveillance picture, and increases efficiency against a range of targets," company CEO Boaz Levy added.
Crucially the high-tech balloon was developed with US military help. Israel’s Missile Defense Organization and the United States’ Missile Defense Agency worked together in developing the project in order to ensure Israel's "qualitative military edge" against regional threats, according to director of the American Missile Defense Agency, Vice Admiral Jon Hill. Maintaining the Jewish state's military dominance is currently a defined US foreign policy and strategic goal.
After years of testing the balloon's capabilities in detecting long-range threats, which officials say have proved successful, it's likely that more of the radar equipped balloons will be deployed in the coming years. Currently Israel's sees the greatest external threats as against it's northern region, given also the proximity to southern Lebanon and Syria. According to The Times of Israel:
The Israeli military fears that in the coming years that superiority may be tested as Iranian-made and -designed drones and cruise missiles flood the Middle East, representing a greater threat to Israel than the simple rockets that terror groups in the region have possessed until now.
In light of this threat, the IDF intends to have full, permanent defensive coverage in place over the airspace of northern Israel within the next two years, with plans to eventually expand it to the entire country.
The Israeli Defense Ministry and Air Force are preparing to launch a massive new missile detection balloon into the skies over northern Israel.— Judah Ari Gross (@JudahAriGross) November 3, 2021
"It represents a significant element in the strengthening of the defense of the country's borders," the ministry says. https://t.co/8M7LIXgkNc
Despite Israeli leaders consistently framing the military's posture as primarily "defensive" - in recent years the air force has conducted literally hundreds of raids and strikes deep inside Syria, which Tel Aviv says is toward disrupting pro-Iranian networks in the country, particularly Hezbollah.