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Always Vigilant Release date 28.09.2017
Last week, an enemy UAV intercepted over the Golan Heights by an IAF Patriot missile. Here are the crucial moments leading up to the interception, as seen by the IAF Air Traffic Control Unit
Carmel Stern

Tuesday, September 19, 2017, a hostile UAV makes its way toward Israel’s airspace. The alarm sounds at the Northern ATC (Air Traffic Control) Unit and Lt. Itay is alerted to the main floor. "When the target neared Israel, we took action. We scrambled fighter jets to the location and ordered the Patriot batteries to be on ready-alert", described Lt. Itay. "When the UAV crossed into the demilitarized zone at Mount Hermon, the control station decided to intercept the target and we ordered the battery to open fire".


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The main control floor is manned by air traffic controllers at any given moment. "The Air Traffic Control Unit’s role in these scenarios is to discover the target, classify it and decide whether or not it's a hostile target. If it is, we are responsible for deploying the relevant forces", said Lt. Itay. "The control station decides whether or not we shoot down the target, and then our mission is to enable a proper interception of the aircraft. We decide whether the target is downed by a fighter jet or an aerial defense system" "We can determine if an aircraft is behaving in an unconventional way as we are well-versed with the nature of flight in the Northern theater", explained Lt. Itay.


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The unit can go from routine activity to the management of an operational scenario in a matter of mere seconds. There was a relatively small number of interception in the years since the Second Lebanon War, but that number has almost doubled itself during the last three years. "We are constantly prepared - we have to maintain our vigilance".