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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why Israel cannot defend Sderot

One of the first stories I covered on this blog was the 2006 decision by the United States to kill a defensive weapon called the Nautilus that was being jointly developed with Israel. The Nautilus was "designed to intercept aerial targets such as rockets, missiles, artillery shells and other aerial threats at ranges of 5-6 kilometers."

In September 2006, I reported that Israel was considering a total of four short-range anti-missile systems, one of which was something called the Vulcan Phalanx, which was being used by the United States in Iraq.

In June 2007, I reported that the Israeli government had turned down a variant of the Vulcan Phalanx that had been offered by the United States government in favor of developing its own missile defense system, which will not be ready until 2011! In February 2008, I reported that the Israeli system in question, which is known as Iron Dome, is useless for defending against the shortest range Kassam rockets, including those that hit Sderot. In March 2008, I reported that Israel had reconfirmed that decision. And in July 2008, I reported on a test of the Iron Dome system that resulted in much less than 100% accuracy.

Now comes word that Israel's defense ministry is insisting on sticking with Iron Dome, refusing to even assess the Phalanx's performance.

Let's go to the videotape.

Here's more:
"The Phalanx, which the U.S. has successfully used in Iraq to shoot down rockets and mortar shells, has also been rejected even though the Israel air force wrote in January 2006 that the Phalanx was 'the most prepared weapons defense systems among those inspected,'" respected Israeli analyst Reuven Pedatzur wrote in the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz on March 5.

Pedatzur said that the controversial Administration for the Development of Weapons in the Israeli Defense Ministry continues to refuse to assess the Phalanx's performance seriously, despite the total failure to bring Iron Dome online for at least another year and probably more.

"The ADW's response as to why the system has not yet been brought to Israel was: 'We're still gathering data on its performance,'" he wrote.

As another Haaretz columnist, Yossi Melman, wrote March 5, "The Vulcan Phalanx is a U.S.-made gun that the U.S. Army uses against steep-trajectory rockets and mortar shells in Iraq and Afghanistan. The system includes detection radar, tracking radar and two 20mm cannons."

This year's annual report by Israeli State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss contains a sobering description of bureaucratic foot-dragging and what even appears to have been deliberate obstructionism by the Israeli military establishment going back at least five years to prevent the Phalanx, which is built by Raytheon, from being bought by Israel as a possible rival to their own cherished Iron Dome project.

Back in 2004, Lindenstrauss documented, the Israeli air force and the research and development department of the Israeli Defense Ministry, also known as Mafat, carried out assessment tests on the Phalanx. The report concluded, "The Vulcan Phalanx system is likely to provide a solution for protecting strategic sites."

Yet years passed while Israel's southern settlements remained under constant Qassam rocket bombardment from Gaza, and no action was taken to follow up with the Phalanx.

"In December 2004, Mafat received basic data regarding the system's efficacy against Qassam rockets," Melman wrote in Haaretz. "About a year later, in January 2006, the air force determined it was the best-developed system to protect against mortar shells and rockets. In spite of that, nothing was done."
Imagine how much different the entire Gaza situation would look if we had a system in place that shoots down every 'Palestinian' missile before it can do damage. We could have it. And we could have had it for nearly two years.



At 9:43 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Yep. I think all those in Israel's defense projects agency should be cashiered and made to seek another line of work. What exactly is wrong with buying American technology that is now available and which can be modified and upgraded to suit Israel's specific requirements is something I will never understand - it is really necessary to leave the people of Sderot completely defenseless of reasons of national pride?

At 11:57 PM, Blogger chaoticsynapticactivity said...

Available? It certainly is, and in 1984, it was installed on my ship in overhaul.

Something about the CIWS (Close in Weapons System)(Phalanx) is that RADM John Bulkeley, USN (MOH awardee for getting McArthur and his family out of the Philippines on his PT Boat) was President of the Board of Inspection and Survey for many years. That board inspects each Navy ship every three years to determine fitness for further service. They actually work for Congress, but are Navy Officers doing the work. He said, if you're going to call CIWS the "last ditch line of defense, then it will have to perform to 100%!" or words to that effect. They hated him, but he knew the cost in lives if it didn't work. He hammered the system relentlessly with real test data and forced that system into a very high level of reliability, above the voices of many...but then he faced down Castro in GTMO, besides running the PT boat protection of the D-Day invasion force, before getting his commend of a Destroyer.

His story is "Sea Wolf" in case you figure he's worth reading about. He also was the man who recruited JFK into PT boats.

Mostly due to his tenacity and ability to set priorities straight, Phalanx is an excellent system.

At 6:05 PM, Blogger Captain.H said...

"Imagine how much different the entire Gaza situation would look if we had a system in place that shoots down every 'Palestinian' missile before it can do damage. We could have it. And we could have had it for nearly two years."

Phalanx isn't 100% effective, few weapons systems are. Here's some more info on the Phalanx C-Ram, a ground-based variant of this system.

The Phalanx was originally designed as a US Navy shipboard last-ditch anti-missile defense. The C Ram model was developed to protect US bases in Iraq and the Green Zone in Baghdad. The article I linked says it's 70-80% effective against rockets and artillery shells.

Of course, if the people of Sderot have 0% effective non-protection now, installing Phalanx C-Ram anti missile and anti-artillery defenses is a huge step forward. I'd guess it'd also be a tremendous morale booster for those far too long suffering people of Sderot.

At 6:10 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

The NIH (Not Invented here)syndrome again. Some adult should intervene.

At 12:24 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

There will never be a defense system that will give 100% protection. Even 70% protection is better than nothing. If you want to convince the Palestinians shooting rockets won't turn Israel's society upside down, an anti-missile deterrent system is the answer. Its the complete answer but it helps to blunt an advantage now enjoyed by the enemy. Sderot deserves that if nothing else.


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