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SPECIAL REPORT: Israeli Missile Affairs

By | November 5, 2007

      Israel To Face Threat If China Sells Advanced Fighters, Missiles, To Iran

      Israel will face a serious new threat if China, as rumored, sells advanced long-range Chengdu J-10 fighter aircraft and two types of missiles to Iran, according to a report published last week by the International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC), a defense-oriented think tank near the Pentagon.

      A Russian publication, Kommersant, disclosed the deal, the IASC report stated.

      The $1 billion deal, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry disavowed, would include two dozen of the fourth-generation fighter aircraft, with additional sums to buy a total 240 missiles: 120 SD-10A medium-range self-guided air-to-air missiles and 120 PL-9C short-range air-to-air missiles that would arm the J-10 aircraft, according to the report.

      The report stated that the IASC independently confirmed the sale details with a reputable Asian source, a source that disclosed the aircraft buy would be divided between 20 single-seat fighters and four twin-seat aircraft.

      Despite the denials, it makes sense that China would sell the planes to Iran, the report continued.

      After all, "China is marketing the J-10 to other countries to include Pakistan (up to 40 J-10s) and countries in Southeast Asia, so it is at least plausible that it is also offering the J-10 for sale to Iran," the report asserted.

      A J-10 has similar size and performance characteristics to the U.S. F-16C Block 50 fighter, but may have a longer range that would permit J-10 fighters to escort bombers on attacks against Israel, according to Richard Fisher Jr., author of the report.

      Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be wiped from the map. As well, Iran has refused to cease production of nuclear materials, and is developing or procuring missiles with steadily longer ranges. (Please see full story in this issue.) Iran threatens not only Israel, but soon may be able to threaten Europe, prompting President Bush to seek funding in Congress to establish a missile defense shield in the Czech Republic and Poland to protect Europe from Iranian missiles. (Please see separate story in this issue.)

      While there is debate as to the J-10 performance characteristics, some estimates see "the J-10’s range with external tanks as 2,900km, whereas another published estimate holds that the large fuel tanks of the J-10 give it a 2,500km radius, or a potential 5,000km total range," the report notes.

      "Such a range would be astounding for basically an F-16 size fighter. The J-10 is usually estimated to have a 550km to 600km combat radius. But one cannot be sure due to China’s refusal to reveal real numbers."

      If China sells the J-10 to Iran, that would be a stunning betrayal of Israel, which helped China to develop some of the technology in the fighter aircraft and in some of the missiles, the report notes.

      The United States in the 1970s encouraged Israel to cooperate with China, to help open China to the West, according to the report.

      Now, Israel in dismay now may find its own technology being used to attack Tel Aviv.

      "The radar for the J-10 is another ‘indigenous’ Chinese design which has drawn heavily from Russian and possibly, Israeli technology," according to the report. "At the 2004 Zhuhai Airshow Russian sources revealed that China is claiming this radar can guide four simultaneous air-to-air missile engagements, while the Russian[s] believed the radar could only successfully guide two under fast moving air combat conditions."

      If China sells J-10s to Iran, that also would be an affront to Washington. The United States, United Nations, some European countries and others are attempting, thus far unsuccessfully, to persuade Iran to surrender its ongoing nuclear materials production program.

      The IASC report observed that "at a time when U.S. and Israeli officials are increasingly considering the heavy burden of having to attack Iran’s nuclear weapons related facilities, China’s sale of the J-10 to Iran may signal the beginning of a deeper Chinese effort to protect Iran’s nuclear aspirations, much as it has ensured North Korea’s nuclear weapons development."

      The J-10 would be a significant, threatening addition to Iranian air power, the report states.

      "The J-10’s defensive capabilities would be formidable, as would its ability to perform all-weather strikes with new precision guided weapons against Israeli or U.S. targets," the report notes.

      Iran is willing to spend considerable sums on new aircraft and missiles, because much of its air force is aging, such as the old Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] F-5E, according to the report.

      "Defections of Russian-made aircraft from Iraq in 1991 and subsequent purchases show that Iran now has about 25 MiG-29 fighters and 30 Sukhoi Su-24 attack bombers," the report observed. "Russia reportedly offered Iran the sophisticated MiG-31 interceptor in 2003. In July … reports emerged from the Paris Airshow that Iran was seeking to purchase 250 Sukhoi Su-30MK fighter-bombers, which were denied by Russian sources. Iranian interest in such a number of Russian fighters is also plausible given a large proportion of Iran’s Air Force relies on old U.S.-made fighters (25 F-14; 70+ F-4D/E; and 60+ F-5E/F) that in turn rely on an extensive espionage network, aided by China, to supply spare parts. A force of 250 Su-30MK fighters would allow Iran to retire its U.S. fighter force while significantly increasing the air defense and attack capabilities. During his recent visit to Iran, Russian President Putin reportedly approved the sale of 50 RD-33 engines that Iran will use to build its Azarakhash fighter."

      While the United States has assailed Iran for its bellicose stance on various issues, for its missile development program, for its obstinate refusal to cease nuclear materials production, and for its threats against Israel, China and Russia have sought to block global pressures against Iran, the report stated.

      And both China and Russia are vying to sell advanced weapons platforms to Iran, the report notes.

      "Another reason for Iran to purchase the J-10 would be to replace the 24 or so obsolete Chengdu F-7M fighters that it purchased in 1987," the report noted. "The F-7M, a Chinese copy of the Russian MiG-21C Fishbed is a relatively simple supersonic interceptor with a short range and very limited weapons payload. The J-10 is a modern 4th generation multi- role air combat and attack fighter. But for China, beyond its desire to strengthen its military relations with Iran, there is perhaps a more direct political imperative: China’s desire to further improve its relations with Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards (IRG), or Pasdaran (Guards), which apparently, at least during the early 1990s, controlled many or most of Iran’s F-7M fighters. While IRG Air Force is more recently described as controlling Iran’s Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack fighters, China’s sale of 24 J-10s, a number that may be similar to the number of Iran’s F-7Ms, may indicate a revival or strengthening of China’s relationship with the IRG."

      To read the full text of the report entitled "Chengdu J-10 Fighters for Iran" please go to on the Web.

      Israeli Group Calls For Laser Missile Defenses

      Israel, a nation surrounded by missile-firing terrorists, should develop both laser and kinetic defenses against hostile missiles in flight, not just kinetic systems, the Israel Missile Defense Association (IMDA) asserts.

      True, Israel should continue with its present responses to missiles that terrorists fire into Israel, such as having the populace enter bomb shelters, and launching counter- strikes against the attackers.

      But there must be a third element, according to IMDA: Israel must invest in both major types of ballistic missile defense systems, including directed energy laser systems.

      "Comprehensive missile defense means implementing a full set of approaches for homeland defense," according to IMDA.

      Along with shelters and counter-attacks, Israel should add "a third, unique capability for missile defense, providing for threat destruction in-flight."

      While it is well to take steps that may prevent missile attacks in the first place, reality dictates that some attacks nonetheless will occur, and Israel must ready herself to respond when enemy missiles fly, IMDA stated.

      "When all three [strategies] are implemented, missile launches can sometimes be prevented and, if launched, missiles can be destroyed in the air," IMDA noted. "This combination provides a robust missile defense capability, allowing the military to take the initiative, deciding if and when to attack based on strategy, not as a reaction to an enemy’s timetable. Comprehensive missile defense allows decision makers to remain in control, retaining all the options to address an attack on their own timetable."

      IMDA favors not only the older kinetic energy interceptors approach, where a missile hits an enemy missile, but says Israel also should pursue laser missile defense.

      Israeli companies have helped contribute to both types of systems.

      Lasers have several advantages: while kinetic interceptor systems have a one-time only chance to kill an enemy missile at one very specific point in space and time, a laser can continue firing at an enemy missile until it explodes and its electronics are fried.

      The Boeing Co. [BA] is developing the Airborne Laser along with Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] and Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT]. The system involves a heavily-modified Boeing 747-400 freighter with a Northrop high-powered laser and a Lockheed beam control/fire control system.

      IMDA doesn’t agree with concerns that laser and kinetic systems won’t be able to work, dependably, in knocking down enemy missiles.

      "Active missile defense systems using both of these technologies have been developed, built and successfully tested, and are available for procurement and deployment," according to IMDA. Further, "Development of more advanced systems is under way."

      While using a kinetic-interceptor missile to knock out an enemy missile can be expensive — interceptor missiles may command high prices — using a beam of laser light to kill a missile can be much cheaper per shot.

      Israel must find a way to affordably and reliably defeat huge numbers of incoming missiles. For example, the terrorist group Hezbollah fired 4,000 or so rockets and missiles from Lebanon into Israel during a bombardment last year.

      Israel Requests $1.3 Billion In FMS Munitions And Missiles

      Israel wants to spend as much as $1.3 billion on missiles, munitions and associated equipment and services, according to a congressional notification by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).

      Israel has requested a possible sale of 100 anti-ballistic missile Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missile Plus; 1,700 Hellfire missiles in three variants, 2,014 TOW 2A radio frequency missiles of two kinds, 5,000 M141 83mm bunker defeat munitions and more than 280,000 cartridges of various types.

      The request also includes non major defense equipment cartridges, spare and repair parts, fuzes, cartridges, test and tool sets, training and equipment, publications, government and contractor engineering and logistics services and other logistic support.

      Israel’s strategic position makes it vital to U.S. interests in the Middle East, and U.S. policy has been to promote Middle East peace, support Israeli commitment to peace with other regional Arab countries, enhance regional stability and promote Israeli readiness and self-sufficiency. "It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability," DSCA said, and the proposed sale is consistent with those objectives.

      Israel will have no difficulty absorbing the additional missiles and munitions into its armed forces. The proposed sale will not affect the basic military balance in the region, it said.

      Principal contractors would be Raytheon Co. [RTN], and Hellfire Systems LLC, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] and The Boeing Co. [BA].

      DSCA said there are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with the potential sale. Additionally, there will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of the possible sale.

      Israel Seen Placing Missile Defense Systems On Airliners

      In an era of rising terrorism including missile attacks on aircraft, Israel is expected to install laser missile defense systems on airliners, according to a UPI report.

      The Multi Spectral Infrared Countermeasure systems would be designed by Elbit, a subsidiary of El-Op, and would counter various types of missiles including shoulder-mounted weapons.

      The system would both detect an incoming hostile missile, and then deploy a laser to jam electronic signals, demolishing operating systems in the missile.

      Separately, Elbit announced its joint venture with Rockwell Collins received a total of $60 million worth of contracts.

      Elbit Systems Ltd. [NASDAQ: ESLT] announced that the joint venture with Rockwell Collins, Vision Systems International LLC (VSI), received several new contracts.

      The joint venture provides advanced Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) technology.

      The Boeing Co. [BA] awarded VSI a contract for the delivery of more than 300 additional Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS). VSI has supplied the JHMCS to Boeing since the program’s inception in 1996. This award represents their eighth production contract.

      Under the Boeing agreement, VSI will provide JHMCS hardware, including spares, technical support and support equipment for the Full Rate Production – Lot 4 (FRP-4). Additional contracts will satisfy U.S. government domestic requirements for numerous aircraft such as the U.S. Air Force F-15 and F-16, Air National Guard F-15, U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, as well as foreign military sales for Greece (F-16), Poland (F-16), Belgium (F-16), Turkey (F-16), Australia (F/A-18), Switzerland (F/A-18) and Canada (F/A-18).

      "With the addition of Belgium and other Air Forces, VSI now has a total of 19 customers for JHMCS," said Drew Brugal, president of VSI.

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