The radar station at the
top of the hill, next to the
Latrun Tank Museum, can be seen for miles around. Overlooking the Ayala
Valley, and with a clear view to the Jerusalem skyline, the singular green
a man-made reservoir and Mini Israel.
Dr. Leonid Dinevich, of the Zoology Institute of Tel Aviv University, explained
that the mobile radar MRL-5 was brought from Moldavia in the former Soviet
Union. Originally developed as a meteorological radar station, the MRL-5
is being used to detect flying birds.
|Skeleton of the crashed F-15 plane
Israel, a midway point on the bird migration route, hosts over 7 million
birds each autumn and spring, as they traverse the earth. Israel’s centrality
on the bird migration route has brought ornithologists from around the world
to Israel’s birding centers. But it has also proven to be a hazard that
Israel is learning to cope with. Farmers whose fields have become feeding
grounds for masses of migrating birds have learned to cope, and even to
turn the area into an attraction.
|Remains of the F-15
In response to the conflict
between aviation and nature and to ensure safety in air flights, Dr. Yossi
Leshem, Director of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration,
Latrun, and Dr. Dinevich, are developing radar detection methods using the
MRL-5 meteorological radar station. Unlike aerodrome
radars, MRL-5 — originally intended is able to determine the location
of birds, including their flying altitudes. The computerized radar system
they developed enables 24 hour automated observation of flying birds. Based
on the differing movements of birds during migration, Leshem and Dinevich
developed a method to differentiate and determine bird type — critical
information for airflight controllers and pilots.
But a more serious problem are birds getting in the way of airplane routes,
both military and civilian. In August 1995, three migrating storks flew
into an F-15 Falcon fighter plane, causing the plane to crash and killing
both the pilot and captain.
The radar center at Latrun has two wave lengths which allows it to detect
a stork-sized bird from a distance of 80 km, as well as clouds up to 300
km. Used as tool by both air tower operators at Ben Gurion Airport and the
Israel Air Force, the radar station
plays an important role in air safety.
Text and photos by Judith Isaacson