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Friday, February 22, 2008

'Defense' against Kassams useless

The system that Israel has been developing as its sole anti-missile defense for short-range missiles is useless against Kassams shot from less than four and a half kilometers (about three miles) away. Because Sderot is two kilometers (a little more than a mile) from Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, on Sunday the buffoons in the Olmert-Barak-Livni junta approved the construction of 'sealed rooms' in some 8000 homes. The next day, they discovered that they only had the money to pay for 3600 of them over the next two years, as Kassams fall in Sderot and surrounding communities daily.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was surprised to learn last Sunday that the Iron Dome defense system, which was approved last year and was supposed to protect Israel's citizens against Qassam rockets, is not capable of alleviating the distress of Sderot inhabitants. "Recent tests found the system to be effective against rockets fired from more than four kilometers away, but not against those fired from closer range," Haaretz noted that same day in its lead story. Because Sderot is less than two kilometers from Beit Hanun, from which the rockets are being fired, Iron Dome will be helpless against them.

The upshot is that the prime minister, who just two months ago declared that "we will not fortify ourselves to death," was compelled to approve recommendations to fortify 8,000 homes in Sderot and the communities of the "Gaza envelope," to the tune of NIS 300 million. Such protection is necessary because these homes lie within 4.5 kilometers of the Gaza Strip.

But a mere day later, it turned out that the plan was too ambitious and that budget shortfalls meant that only 3,600 homes in Sderot and the Gaza envelope can be fortified within the next two years. The solemn declarations to fortify the homes, revoked only hours later, are just the latest chapter in a gloomy saga replete with deception, lies, concealment of the truth from policymakers, groundless promises to Sderot residents, the unexplained rejection of the arguments for examining additional defense systems other than Iron Dome, and bizarre decisions made in the Defense Ministry.


The fact that Iron Dome is not effective against short-range rockets and therefore cannot protect Sderot was long known to the system's developers and to the Defense Ministry officials who chose to focus on it. For some reason, they decided not to go public with their information. When the Defense Ministry officials, led by the defense minister, promised that the residents of Sderot would be protected after the installation of the Iron Dome system, they knew they would not be able to deliver on this promise.

One need not be privy to classified information in order to understand that Iron Dome is not the solution to the Qassam rockets. The data are public knowledge: The Qassam's speed in the air is 200 meters per second. The distance from the edge of Beit Hanun to the outskirts of Sderot is 1,800 meters. Therefore, a rocket launched from Beit Hanun takes about nine seconds to hit Sderot. The developers of Iron Dome at Rafael Advance Defense Systems know that the preparations to simply launch the intercept missiles at their target take up to about 15 seconds (during which time the system locates the target, determines the flight path and calculates the intercept route). Obviously, then, the Qassam will slam into Sderot quite a number of seconds before the missile meant to intercept it is even launched.
In addition to what I emphasized above, I'd like to point out that the current "color red" warning system purportedly gives 15 seconds to reach a shelter. It should be obvious to all of you that if the rocket takes only 9 seconds to get there, people really have 9 seconds and not 15. I also assume that the "color red" system has some reaction time. That's why we see reports like the one involving the two Twito brothers two weeks ago in which they said that the rocket hit before the "code red" alarm ever went off. The "code red" alarm is a useless farce.
The disturbing question is why no one bothered to apprise the prime minister of this simple calculation, to make it clear to him that Iron Dome, in the development of which his government decided to invest hundreds of millions of dollars, will not be able to protect Sderot. The questions multiply when it emerges that on January 13 an urgent personal letter was sent to Defense Minister Ehud Barak by the head of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, Alon Schuster. He referred to the Qassam's short flight time, noted that the reaction time of Iron Dome is too long to cope with the rockets, and added that the system is incapable of protecting Sderot and many of the communities bordering the Gaza Strip.

The reply of the Defense Ministry was sent to the council head on February 10. The letter is signed by attorney Ruth Bar, the defense minister's assistant. "The analysis [done by the Defense Ministry] found that in regard to the threats that were identified by the warning system during April-November 2007, one Iron Dome battery has the ability to cope and cover an area far larger than that of Sderot. The capability of Iron Dome to cope with mortar shells has not yet been examined in depth. I will add that the issue of the flight time cannot be detailed in this letter, owing to security considerations."
What 'security considerations'? It's apparently common knowledge how long the Kassam takes to hit. But here's the most scandalous part of all:
An examination of the economic aspect also casts grave doubts on the decision to choose Iron Dome. The cost of each intercept missile will probably be about $100,000. (Rafael claims the cost of a missile will be about $40,000, but given the cost of similar missiles, that does not seem reasonable.) In contrast, the cost of making a Qassam rocket is well under $100,000. So, if the Palestinians produce thousands of Qassams, the Israeli defense establishment will have to respond by manufacturing thousands of Iron Dome missiles, at a prohibitive cost of hundreds of millions of shekels. On the assumption that this information is known to everyone involved, it must be asked, again, how it came about that Iron Dome was chosen as the preferred solution to the Qassam rockets while other options were vehemently rejected.

The decision was made, seemingly, via a proper, orderly procedure. The Defense Ministry set up a professional committee to look into the matter, headed by Yaakov Nagel, the deputy chief for scientific affairs of the ministry's Directorate of Defense R&D. The committee examined 14 proposals for anti-rocket defense systems and chose Iron Dome. Two defense ministers approved the choice - Amir Peretz and Ehud Barak.

However, the impression of an orderly decision-making process is upended when it turns out that the senior staff at the Defense Ministry's R&D directorate strongly rejected the proposal to bring into Israel the laser-based Nautilus defense system, whose development is nearly complete and whose effectiveness was proved in a series of tests (100 percent success in 46 tests, including success in intercepting mortar shells).

Nautilus was developed in the United States in conjunction with Israel, but the Israeli defense establishment ended its participation in the project in 2001. The Americans went on with it, improved the system and changed its name to Skyguard. Northrop Grumman, the company that is developing the missile, promises that it can be delivered within 18 months at a relatively low cost. The Nautilus system itself, devised to protect Kiryat Shmona against Katyusha rockets, can be installed in Sderot within six months. By comparison, the development of Iron Dome will take another three years.

The major advantage of Skyguard is its use of a laser beam for interceptions. The beam travels at the speed of light, allowing the system to intercept short-range rockets like the ones aimed at Sderot. The cost of implementing the laser system is also far lower than Iron Dome. The cost of launching one laser beam will be between $1,000 and $2,000. On February 6, 2007, Mike McVey, vice president of Northrop Grumman's Directed Energy Systems business area, sent a letter to Ehud Olmert, with copies to the defense minister at the time, Amir Peretz, and the then director general of the Defense Ministry and present chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, undertaking to install in Israel an operational system within 18 months and at a fixed price ($177 million for the first system). As far as is known, McVey has not received a reply to this day.

Asked why Israel rejected the laser system, the Defense Ministry's spokesman replied: "The Nautilus system is defined as exemplifying technologies and not as an operational instrument. Bringing the Nautilus system into Israel today will cost about $100 million, and it might take up to two years for the system to become active. The Nautilus system is operationally inferior to the Iron Dome system, is far more costly and does not provide an answer to volleys of missiles, as Iron Dome is meant to do. Tests of Nautilus did not achieve the goal of 100 percent hits but far less, and even that under optimal conditions, which, regrettably, do not exist in the western Negev." The reply is studded with inaccuracies, to say the least.
It sure is. For long-time readers, I've discussed the Nautilus/Skyguard system before and that's why it sounds familiar to you. Israel may not be completely to blame for not purchasing Skyguard.
The unofficial suspension of U.S. arms deliveries began in late September [2006 CiJ], the sources said. They said the suspension halted the airlift of air-to-ground and other munitions conducted during and immediately after the Israeli war with Hizbullah.

"Several weeks after the war, the U.S. supplies stopped," the source said. "There was no real explanation."

The sources said the administration has held up a list of weapons requested by Israel in wake of the Lebanon war. They said the weapons and equipment -- including the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM -- were meant to replenish munitions and other stocks in preparation for a larger war that would include Syria in mid-2007.

"The administration has not rejected any Israeli request," a U.S. official said. "Instead, the State Department and Defense Department have said that all requests must be examined."

The administration refusal to approve the Israeli requests has also hampered military cooperation between the two countries. In November, the Israel Air Force canceled plans to send delegations to the United States to examine air systems and munitions.

A U.S. official said the White House was deeply disappointed by the Israeli failure to defeat Hizbullah. The official said the war undermined U.S. confidence in Israel's military and government.

"The word in the White House was that Israel lost the war," the official said. "That alone led to a plummet in Israel's stock in the administration, particularly the Pentagon."

The U.S. refusals have also hampered Israeli defense programs. The sources said the State Department has prevented the transfer of data and technology, even from projects that included Israeli participation.

In one case, State prevented Northrop Grumman from providing details of its Skyguard laser weapon, which the company has sought to sell to Israel. The ban led to the suspension of Israeli negotiations to procure Skyguard, designed to intercept short-range rockets and missiles.
In other words, Israel may not have been willing to purchase the Skyguard system because the State Department prevented Northrop Grumman from providing necessary details about it. While McVey's letter discussed above was some five weeks after this article, it apparently speaks of installing Skyguard as a turnkey project. Israel may well have wanted more control than that. That would be forgivable if the Iron Dome was at least somewhat comparable - in terms of effectiveness and cost - to the Skyguard system. Sadly, that is apparently not the case. This is apparently yet another instance of Israel insisting on reinventing the wheel when a functional wheel was on the market already.

Would the last one out of Sderot please turn out the lights?

Read the whole thing.


At 5:57 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

What Israel needs is not a Ghetto mentality of cowering in fear and hiding away from the world; but rather taking the war to the enemy. The Jew needs to be strong and tough to survive in a hostile region - he'll never gain the Arabs' love but he would obtain their grudging respect. The Iron Dome anti-missile system conveys weakness instead of strength. And the people of Sderot deserve better from their own government.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


I agree and have called for an invasion of Gaza and its 'reoccupation' many times. The point of this article was only to show how badly the government has bamboozled its own 'answer' to the problem.

At 4:34 PM, Blogger BernardZ said...

I doubt very much the cost of making a Qassam rocket is anywhere near $100,000.


500.00 EUR = 691.208 USD


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