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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Israel considering Lockheed Skyshield air defense

The Jerusalem Post is reporting this morning that with more than 10,000 Hezbullah short-range rockets still in place in Lebanon, Israel contacted US defense contractor Lockheed-Martin and asked it to run tests and make adjustments to a high-powered, rapid-fire cannon built by the company to intercept incoming aerial targets.
The Skyshield 35 Air Defense System is a cannon that fires a unique 35-mm. AHEAD (Advanced Hit Efficiency And Destruction) shell that destroys incoming targets. It ejects 152 sub-projectiles that are released just ahead of the incoming target up to distances of close to 10 kilometers.

The projectiles create a cloud ahead of the incoming rocket and penetrate it, inflicting enough damage to prevent it from striking its target. The system was developed by the Switzerland-based Oerlikon Contraves Corporation.

Initially developed to intercept incoming aircraft, and specifically unmanned drones, Lockheed Martin has been testing the system for the past few weeks to see if it is also suitable to intercept and destroy Katyusha rockets fired by Hizbullah. Before the war, the Defense Ministry had asked Lockheed to run tests to see if the system would be effective against the Palestinian homemade Kassam rocket.

The main changes that need to be made to the system are with the ammunition used to intercept the rockets.

According to officials close to the project, the quality and amount of explosives inside the shells need to be increased for the system to accurately intercept primitive rockets such as Katyushas and Kassams. The testing is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. Israeli defense officials have visited the US test site to watch the system's performance.
The Post reports that there are three other anti-missile systems that are also under consideration: Northrop Grumman's Skyguard land-based, air-defense system - also known as the Nautilus (which it says is now unlikely to be chosen), the Vulcan Phalanx cannon, which has already been installed on Navy missile ships and used to intercept incoming anti-ship missiles, and the Barak antimissile system, which is also used by the Navy, and which was developed by Israel's own Refael.

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