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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Israel to buy new, improved Skyshield from Lockheed - but will it be enough?

Back in September, I told you all that Israel was on the verge of deciding to purchase the Skyshield missile shield system from American defense contractor Lockheed Martin after the US killed the development of the Nautilus laser gun system in January.

Haaretz is reporting this morning that Lockheed has made some improvements to the Skyshield and hopes to have it available for the IDF early next year. It is hoped that Skyshield will provide an answer to the Katyusha rockets that Hezbullah shot from Lebanon last summer, and to the Kassam rockets that the 'Palestinians' continue to shoot from Gaza.
Skyshield, a gun-based air defense system for low-flying aircraft and helicopters, uses bursting rounds that explode in proximity of the target, destroying it.

Lockheed carried out improvements of Skyshield so it will be able to intercept rockets, mortars and artillery shells.

The rounds fired by the Skyshield's gun are made of tungsten, and have successfully penetrated and destroyed the warheads of several types of ballistic weapons, including Qassam and Katyusha rockets, during laboratory experiments.

The rockets were not destroyed in flight, and therefore cannot be considered as having been intercepted, but at Lockheed there is optimism regarding the possibility that in the future, Skyshield will be able to offer a counter to these threats.

The estimated cost of the system is $15 million and delivery will be possible as early as the beginning of next year.
But will it be enough and will it be in time? Arutz Sheva is reporting this morning that 'moderate Palestinian President' Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen's Fatah's 'military wing,' the 'al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades' has a new type of rocket that it showed off in Samaria yesterday, that is capable of hitting Israeli cities and planes taking off and landing at Ben Gurion International Airport. The missile, called Jundalla (Allah's soldiers) was displayed at a press conference for the foreign press yesterday:
The Fatah terrorists, located in Palestinian Authority-assigned Shechem (Nablus), said that they were prepared to begin firing the rockets at Israeli towns.

At the press conference, to which Arab correspondents working for Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France Presse were invited, twenty members of the terrorist group brandished at least four of the new rockets.

The five-foot long rockets have a range of more than two miles and carry at least 6.6 pounds of explosives, the terrorists claimed.

“We have a certain number of these rockets and we are going to use them when the time is right,” they told the newsmen.
Now this is not the first time these claims have been made. I would advise taking them seriously. Back in March, I blogged an article in which we were told:
Ben-Gurion International Airport is only eleven kilometers from the "green line," and Israel has real concerns over the potential threat of missiles launched against aircraft. Al-Qaeda tried to shoot down an Israeli Arkia aircraft with a missile in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002 and they missed. It was a miracle that nobody was killed at that time.

In Israel, all the aircraft come from the west and land from west to east, then take off from east to west over the Mediterranean Sea. But due to weather conditions, there are seventy days a year when the aircraft must fly in the opposite direction, above the West Bank. We wanted to build a double fence in the area near the airport in order to secure it from missiles, but there are 19,000 Palestinians living in this area. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saw the maps and said Israel could not cause people to live in enclaves, so the government decided not to build a double fence in this area at this time.
In May, I warned that the government was minimizing the rocket threat from Judea and Samaria, because understanding the threat would awaken people to the inherent danger in the government's convergence consolidation realignment surrender, expulsion and suicide plan. And in July, I reported that the 'Palestinians' had fired rockets from Jenin in Samaria. By September, the IDF said that it expected rocket strikes on Israeli cities from Judea and Samaria by January 2007. According to Arutz Sheva,
A rocket factory in Jenin was uncovered during an IDF operation a year ago, but recent intelligence assessments have indicated that attaining rocket-launching capabilities in Samaria is a top goal for all of the PA’s terror groups.
I'm sure many of you are sitting and wondering what I'm complaining about. The Skyshield sounds like the perfect solution. And it might be. But....

How many Skyshield guns is Israel going to purchase and where are they going to be stationed? I have visions of hundreds of soldiers standing on and around the airport periphery trying to make sure that no missiles hit incoming or outgoing planes. But if the planes have to fly over Samaria to take off, how will we defend them? And how will we predict where else these short range missiles - that provide very little warning (in Sderot they have fifteen seconds from when the alarm goes off to make it into a shelter) - will hit?

What's worse is that the very presence of Skyshield in Israel's arsenal may provide the 'cover' for the Olmert-Peretz-Livni government to give the 'Palestinians' more Judenrein land.

All in all, I am happy to have Skyshield in our arsenal. I don't consider it a panacea for all of our troubles, which will only worsen if Israel actually adopts the the government's convergence consolidation realignment surrender, expulsion and suicide plan.

Update 12:08 PM

I was right.

Maariv is now reporting (link in Hebrew) that a senior staffer at the Defense Ministry says that the purchase of Skyshield will allow Israel to give up land unilaterally.

Defense Minister Amir Comrade Peretz has instructed senior staffers at the Defense Ministry, including director general Gabi Ashkenazy, to intensify the efforts to deploy an anti-missile system so that Israel can take 'unilateral steps' if 'negotiations' with the 'Palestinians' fail. Peretz is due to make the final selection of an anti-missile system (which as noted above is likely to be Skyshield) within two weeks.

According to Maariv, an answer to the Kassam fire will allow the politicians to make "pressure free" decisions. "At the moment that the system development is completed, and this can happen within two years if sufficient resources are invested, we will be able to carry out a unilateral process like 'convergence' vis a vis the Palestinians without apprehension ", said a senior Defense Ministry staffer. " The senior staffer also claimed that because "the choice between the solutions being offered by Israel Military Industries and Refael is difficult."

The IAF has made dealing with the rockets a priority in order to lessen the terrorists' motivation to produce them. A senior IDF officer claims that even if the 'Palestinians' extend their rockets' range, the IDF will be able to intercept them.

Note three things here:

1. No mention of Skyshield. Sounds like the Defense Ministry is trying to handle this locally.

2. They're talking about two years to a solution, which is much worse than the matter of months discussed in the previous article, especially when you consider that the 'Palestinians' are seemingly already prepared to start shooting from Samaria.

3. In Peretz's 'mind,' and probably in Olmert's and Livni's too, the idea of an anti-missile system is not to defend the country, but to provide cover for giving up more geographical assets (i.e. land).

I find the third thing to be the most frightening of all. They still don't get it.


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