What was this aircraft doing in Israel’s Dimona nuclear facility airspace?

Air traffic observed in the much guarded Dimona reactor’s airspace.

Located a few kilometers southeast of Dimona, the Negev Nuclear Research Center is an Israeli nuclear facility used for nuclear research purposes.

The installation is also believed to be used for the production of material for the Israeli nuclear weapons and this is the reason why the airspace over the site is restricted and protected by the Israeli Air Force.

Every now and then unauthorized planes violate the No Fly Zone causing the IAF to scramble its F-16s in Quick Reaction Alert to identify and escort the “intruder” out of the restricted airspace. Or shoot it down, should the need arise.

In 2009 a small aircraft breached the airspace over Dimona and was intercepted by the IAF and forced to land at a nearby airport. In 2012, Hezbollah launched a mysterious UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) to spy on Dimona, but the drone was intercepted by two Israeli F-16s and shot down.

Anyway, it’s quite rare to observe aircraft flying over the Israeli nuclear research center and this is the reason why any aerial activity spotted in the vicinity of Dimona is interesting.

On Mar. 10, one of our readers noticed something weird: an aircraft, “Blocked” by Flightradar24.com but trackable via MLAT could be observed as it performed several “racetracks” over Dimona.

Noteworthy, at a certain time, the plane appeared to cross the border with Jordan, although this is likely to be glitch of some sort, because the next moment this flightpath disappeared, and the plane reappeared well inside the Israeli airspace.


What the aircraft was doing is unknown: it could have been an AEW (Airborne Early Warning) plane supporting an air defense operation or exercise, or a spyplane gathering some intelligence or testing some new sensor.

Any idea?

Image credit: Flightradar24.com

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.