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Fire Kites, Decentralized Drone Defense, and Israel's New Existential Vulnerability

June 26, 2018 - 00:09 -- Admin

Here's a good example of global guerrilla tinkering and decentralized defense.

Fire Kites

Palestinian guerrillas in the Gaza strip have developed a simple and effective weapon for disrupting Israel.   It's a fire kite.  Here are the details (reuters video report):

  • A homemade kite, built out of transparent plastic (making it hard to spot).  This is the delivery vehicle.

Kites-Gaza-B-5.5.18

  • The warhead is a long tail and fringe soaked in flammable liquid.  The tip of the tail is a burning rag or burning coal.  

Kites

  • The kites drift into Israel (courtesy of prevailing winds along the entire border with Gaza), fall to the ground, and start fires.

Prevailing Winds over the Black Sea
Prevailing winds

So far, the kites appear to be working, largely because they are:

  • so easy and cheap to build (under $3 in commonly available materials),
  • so easy to launch (get the kite aloft from anywhere along the border and let it go), and
  • able to do significant damage when they do land (millions in fire damage already reported).

To defend against these attacks:

  • Israel turned to reservists who are drone hobbyists (this allowed them to stand up a drone defense system nearly overnight),
  • The drone pilots either tangle themselves up with the kite (with both falling to ground) or they grab what's left of the kite's string and drag it to the ground.  So far, they've downed far more than 500 fire kites this way.
  • Israel has promised to compensate the drone owners for any broken drones.  

The Real Threat to Israel

However, as interesting as these fire kites are, there is a twist.  It's likely that these fire kites are good news for Israel.  Here's why:

  • The fire kites provide Israel with a figleaf.   A visible justification for continuing aggressive military action against the Palestinians in Gaza (the kites, although expensive in property damage, are largely non-lethal and they provide dramatic visuals).  This justification provides some protection against an emerging threat to Israel.
  • Israel has always been vulnerable to a boycott.  An investment, business, and systemic boycott that disconnects Israel from the world.  So far, Israel has been good at working behind the scenes to prevent this.  However, that's not likely good enough anymore.  The world has changed.  
  • The rapid rise of the #resistance network and surging networked corporatism changes everything.  These networks have both the capability and the disposition to disconnect Israel from the world, nearly overnight, if they are triggered by perceptions of immoral behavior directed against the people of Gaza.  State directed violence, without a meaningful threat to justify it (a threat that these kites seem to provide), could be enough to trigger these networks into action.

PS:  The Fire Kites are also a good opportunity to run through the logic of making big jumps in innovation (ala "making snowmobiles" as John Boyd would say).   I'm writing up my notes on this and will post them soon.   

PPS:  Things are spinning out of control very fast now in the US.  The fictive kinship that held us together as a nation has collapsed.   Nothing but dark skies ahead.