Israeli Air Force Shoots Down Suspicious Unmanned Balloon Near Nuclear Reactor
The IDF informed that the unmanned object had an engine and was flying in closed airspace. The large balloon was downed as Israel feared it could be an attack on the Dimona nuclear reactor of which its airspace is restricted and well protected by the Israeli Air Force (IAF).
The suspicious object was detected over the Dead Sea by IAF radar stations on Thursday afternoon. Scrambled fighter jets were sent to the area to identify and intercept the unmanned object. After determining that it was a balloon, IAF commander Ido Nehushtan ordered to shoot it down.
Nehushtan decided to fire at the object as there were serious concerns that it might have been sent over the reactor to gather intelligence on the activities performed there or that the balloon may be carrying explosives.
For several hours, IAF was not sure if the incident was a real threat or not. The investigation later revealed, however, that the object may have simply been a weather balloon.
The Dimona nuclear reactor, which is being protected by both the IAF as well as surface-to-air missile systems, has reportedly manufactured approximately 200 nuclear weapons.
In October, IAF intercepted an ultra-light aircraft that accidentally flew into the restricted area. The Israeli aircraft was escorted by fighter jets to a nearby landing strip.
During the 1967 Middle East war, an Israeli surface-to-air missile shot down a crippled Israeli fighter-bomber that strayed into the restricted zone, killing its pilot in the process.