Israeli spy balloon approved for purchase by US Army

Skystar 180 tactical aerostat system. (Image from rt.co.il)
An Israeli surveillance aerostat, extensively used during the latest war in Gaza, has been approved for purchase by the US Army, the device’s producer announced.

The aerostat Skystar 180, made by RT, an Israeli firm, successfully passed all the annual Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) tests, and so got the US stamp of approval.

The selection and approval of the SkyStar 180 by the US Army is evidence of the system’s quality and its high-level technological capabilities, and it is a great honor for us,” said RT’s CEO, Rami Shmueli, as cited by Israeli media. “Our unique aerostat systems are the only long-distance aerial surveillance system that can operate from as high as 600 meters.”

The Israeli firm says its helium-inflatable device can stay airborne for up to three days in any weather, following which it will be ready for use again after a speedy 20 minutes re-inflation break.

But it’s not actually an inflatable drone, as it stays tethered to an on-the-ground system. It’s designed for surveillance over “fixed sites, such as military bases, temporary camps, strategic facilities and border crossing checkpoints.”

The spy balloon can mount surveillance day and night. It can also lift a payload of up to 6.5 kilograms and be managed by two people.

Israel has deployed surveillance aerostats widely in the West Bank.

READ MORE: Sky eyes: Spy balloons give Israel intelligence edge in West Bank

Aerostats were also used for gathering intelligence during the 50-day war in Gaza in the summer of 2014, which according to the UN resulted in an estimated 2,205 Palestinians losing their lives.

READ MORE: ‘Mostly civilians’: Probe into Gaza homes strikes finds 60% of deaths non-militants

Balloon Company commander Lieutenant Orel described how effective they proved during Israel’s incursion into Gaza.

We have the ability to look into the furthest and smallest structures in Gaza. We can detect terrorists and the weapons they’re carrying. The enemy has no idea how much we can see,” he said, as reported on the IDF site.