Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Anti-Missile Defense

I'm now venturing off into a topic for which I do not have reliable information. But I have a deep interest in technology, and to a lesser degree military technolgy, so here goes: what does Israel have in its arsenal to defend the civilian homefront from short-range missiles like the various Katyusha and Fajr models now being fired its way? I ask this because of the much ballyhooed reports on Saturday of the deployment of Patriot missile batteries in Haifa and Safed, and the successful strikes of Fajr-3 missiles on Haifa's lower city this morning. With 8 dead in this morning's hit on a Haifa train depot, why didn't the Patriots do their job?

From what I can gather from public sources, Israel is equipped with PAC-2 Patriot batteries (PAC = Patriot Advanced Capability). Remember that the original purpose of the Patriot was to defend against ballistic, not intermediate- and short-range missiles. After the failure of Raytheon's Patriot systems in the 1991 Gulf War, numerous redesigns and enhancements of the software and hardware of Patriot led to significant improvements, and an expanded mission for Patriot. US forces use PAC-3 equipment, which is significantly different from the earlier systems, and supposedly has a short-range missile defense component. But I do not believe the PAC-2 has such a capability. And in any event, what is claimed for the Patriot is not necessarily what the Patriot can do in battlefield situations.

Simultaneously, Israel (in conjunction with the United States) developed a seperate Theater Missile Defense system known as the Arrow, but the Arrow is designed to defend against long-range ballistic missiles.

Thus, as best as I can tell, the Israelis have no technological answer for the short- and intermediate-range arsenal of Hizbollah. Hence, the public deployment of Patriot batteries in Haifa and Safed is merely a public relations move designed to quell Israeli domestic jitters - the fact that this morning a salvo of Fajr-3 missiles struck Haifa without a shot fired from the Patriot batteries positioned in the Stella Maris region of Haifa is proof that the Patriot does not work in this situation.

Had today's missiles landed just a kilometer to the north of the train depot, they could have hit the gigantic petrochemical facility on the north edge of Haifa Bay. This is a conceivable point of escalation should Nasrallah so choose, and potentially has the effect of a WMD scenario. (Pictured left: a look out at Haifa's lower city and port facilty, taken June 26)

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