You might recall that during our recent skirmish with Hamas, Rob Long posted on the heroically geeky ex-Warcraft gamers-turned-real life rocket interceptors who knocked 80% of incoming Hamas surface-to-surface missiles out of the air. “There are a lot of flashing blips, signs, symbols, colors and pictures on the screen. You look at your tactical map; see where the threat is coming from. You have to make sure you’re locked onto the right target. There’s a lot of information and there is very little time. It definitely reminds me of Warcraft and other online strategy games,” Iron Dome ace Idan Yahya told Wired.
It turns out that the IDF had another unusual tool at its disposal during that conflict, and this one too amounts to a grownup version of a kids' diversion -- in this case, the model airplane. It's a miniature reconnaissance drone that is sent into flight with what amounts to a big slingshot:
One soldier stepped backwards, holding a gray Sky Rider Drone connected to a sling, while a second held a digital wind gauge and communicated with a base station.
“Twenty knots. Hold off on takeoff, the wind is too strong,” the second soldier said, acting as a one-man control tower.
Soon, the winds died down and permission was given to take off. The first soldier released the drone and, within seconds, it disappeared. Then its quiet electric engine became inaudible, although the drone was hovering nearby.
At the base station, high-quality color video feed from the drone came in on one screen. Another screen displays the drone’s position for the controller.
UAVs are usually the exclusive domain of the air force, but the Sky Rider changes that."We’re a small airpower unit, but we’re part of the ground forces,” unit commander Sec.-Lt. Itzik Cohen told The Jerusalem Post. “We can show infantry units what’s happening on the ground two hours before they enter an area. We show them what’s around the corner and behind the wall...We can broadcast coordinates of targets to tanks or cannons and then hover in the air to see if the targets have been struck. If there’s a miss, we can report that in real time and direct the next strike to target.”
Here is a look at the Sky Rider:
Now, two batteries of the Iron Dome missile defense system have just been moved north, allegedly as part of a standard rotation but probably as a defensive maneuver in advance of the Israeli strike on the Syrian military center last week. Should the situation in the north heat up, the Sky Rider -- which provided "high quality, detailed intelligence" in Gaza during Pillar of Defense --- will be seeing action. "In any conflict with Hezbollah, Sky Rider units will march with ground forces into Lebanon to provide vital aerial support," the Post reports. "Should the units enter a dense Lebanese forest, the drone will be launched from Israeli territory and be 'taken over' by a Sky Rider unit inside Lebanon."
“Our aim is to move by foot," Cohen says. "When we enter Lebanon, we’ll be walking together with an infantry brigade and we’ll have to carry the equipment on our backs.”