The gas flows from the sea and the IAF is on alert

The Israeli air force (IAF) has a major role in protecting natural gas found under the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli shore.

Natural gas from the Tamar undersea reservoir began to flow from an offshore rig into Israel last week.

The IAF is operating special systems to protect this new potential target for terror organizations.

The Tamar production platform reaches a height of about 290 meters, and its weight – including the rig’s legs – amounts to some 34,000 tonnes.

The Tamar rig is located approximately 90km west of Haifa. A 150km pipeline of approximately 45cm diameter connects the rig to the Ashdod reception facility.

While the Israeli navy is responsible for the protection of the gas facilities, the IAF is performing missions aimed at detecting any sign of a hostile action targeting the rig and related facilities.

Unmanned air systems (UAS) are playing a major role in this operation.

Currently the IAF is operating the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron-1 (Shoval) for maritime patrol missions. Navy personnel are operating the control station on the coast.

It is expected that the number of Heron-1 on maritime patrol missions will grow – and other platforms will join the missions to enhance capabilities.

In recent months a special effort was made to improve the dedicated sensors carried by UAS. These are currently special versions of the Elta maritime radar and optical sensors. Other sensors will also be needed, such as SAR radars and GMTI radars.

IAI subsidiary Elta has developed a SAR/GMTI radar system. The light version – dubbed ELM-2055 – can be carried by the Heron-1 UAS.

The IAF effort will also involve its Eurocoptrer AS565 SA (Atalef) helicopters. These are being operated jointly with the navy from its SAAR-5 missile corvettes.

To improve the integration of these helicopters with other platforms in the mission of protecting the gas facilities, the IAF will equip them with a new advanced helmet mounted system.

The selection of the systems is expected soon after tests are completed in various flight conditions.

The Atalef will be the last IAF helicopter to be equipped with such a system. The IAF’s CH-53s and Blackhawks are already equipped with such helmets.

The Atalef are operated by the “Defenders of the west” squadron from the Ramat-David base in northern Israel.

The HMS will facilitate the integration of the Atalef deployed on the Israeli navy’s SAAR 5 missile corvettes with the Heron-1 UAS maritime version.

This integration has become critical for the mission of defending the gas reservoirs.

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