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Israel Has No Choice In Mounting Missile Defense

By | March 3, 2008

      Terrorists, Insurgents Now Hitting Israel With Perhaps 16 Missiles Daily May Increase That To 100 To 200

      Terrorist groups attacking Israel already have moved from an average of perhaps five missiles slashing into Israel daily, to 16 or so now, and that toll may rise to 100 to 200 enemy missiles bombarding Israel soon, according to Sallai Meridor, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

      While the attackers may be able to use cheap rockets and missiles to assail Israel, ballistic missile defense interceptors can be expensive, meaning that a sustained massive missile barrage raining down on Israel could pose a huge financial burden, Meridor said.

      But, he added, "what are the alternatives you have" aside from using missile defense systems to defend innocent civilians and property from ruination and death?

      Meridor, meeting with several reporters at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, responded to a question from Space & Missile Defense Report as to whether the attackers, if they bombard Israel with hundreds of missiles, could impose a gigantic financial burden on Israel as it attempts to use missile interceptors to ward off the blows.

      "The answer is yes," Meridor said.

      And clearly, he said, Israel is going to be facing ever-increasing numbers of enemy missiles slamming into its homes, shops, and businesses.

      The problem, he said, is that the attackers are able to obtain increasingly high quality munitions that last much longer, and thereby permit the attackers to amass much larger arsenals of missiles.

      Hamas, a terrorist group, has moved from low-grade explosives that could only be stored for weeks or months before expiring, to "high quality explosives" that can last "for many years," he explained. That means that the attackers now can store "hundreds or thousands" of missiles and rockets before unleashing an attack, he said.

      He translated what this means for Israel by putting it in U.S. terms.

      If, he said, only three enemy missiles landed on Washington, D.C., each day, nonetheless it is likely that very few people would come to work or shop in Washington.

      For Israel, with 16 rockets a day, and the likelihood that soon 100 or 200 a day may slam down on civilian targets, the unending attack has been an economic disaster, he said.

      And then there is the financial burden of mounting an adequate defense, to have enough interceptors to knock down the incoming weapons, he observed.

      Like the United States, Israel has a layered ballistic missile defense program, with separate types of interceptors geared to taking down short-range, medium-range and long- range incoming missiles.

      For example, the long-range defense is the Arrow, an interceptor program conducted jointly by Israel Aircraft Industries and The Boeing Co. [BA]. Boeing produces many components for the Arrow system in the United States.

      European Missile Defense

      Boeing also is involved in the U.S. Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program, which is installed in Alaska and California to guard against enemy missiles launched by Asian nations at U.S. targets.

      The United States also proposes adding a third GMD site in Europe, with a radar in the Czech Republic and perhaps 10 interceptors in silos in Poland. Those countries are negotiating with the United States to provide sites.

      The European GMD system would guard against missiles that Iran might launch against European targets, or U.S. troops stationed there. As well, U.S. officials have said the European GMD system could hit Iranian missiles if they were aimed at targets in Israel.

      Space & Missile Defense Report asked Meridor if that would be a viable defense for Israel.

      On the one hand, Meridor said he is "not sure [the European GMD] would be sufficiently relevant for the defense of Israel." Yet at the same time, he added, "we are in close cooperation with the United States on every option" for defending Israel from missile attacks.

      And Israel is very concerned about the growing Iranian missile threat.

      Iran has fired multiple missiles in a single test; developed or obtained ever-longer-range missiles; fired a missile from a submerged submarine; and persisted in producing nuclear materials in the face of condemnation from developed countries concerned that Iran may build nuclear weapons to mount on its missiles.

      Also, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be wiped from the map.

      "We are taking seriously the Iranian threat," Meridor said, noting that even conventional warheads on missiles Iran supplied to terrorists have caused severe damage in Israel.

      Joint Strike Fighter

      Turning to military aircraft, Meridor commented on the globalized program to produce the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), which in the United States is called the Lightning II.

      This supersonic stealth fighter is being developed by a contractor team led by prime contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT], with Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] and BAE Systems playing key roles.

      Asked whether Israel may purchase 100 of the swept-wing fighters, Meridor said he couldn’t provide a definitive answer. But he indicated that Israel is interested in the warplane, and that there is a high potential of that interest resulting in a significant buy.

      As to details of whether it would be, for example, the conventional JSF that takes off from a runway or the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing, or STOVL, version, Meridor declined to say. "I cannot tell you exactly how many and what configuration, and when" Israel might announce a purchase of the planes, he said.

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