– New radar system expected to drastically improve missile defense capabilities for Israel
– As Iran’s military capabilities grow, Israel has place a priority on an improved and advanced missile defense
– It looks increasingly likely Israel will be fully integrated into the US Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) shield
The United States (US) and Israel have been involved in high-level talks regarding a powerful radar system that would greatly boost Israeli defenses against enemy ballistic missiles. US President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed the system during Bush’s latest visit to the Middle East. While the two leaders discussed the new radar, a final decision over whether or not the US would offer Israel the system is scheduled to be determined when Olmert visits Washington in two weeks.
State-Of-The-Art Radar System
The system the US is likely to offer is known as a forward-based X-band radar. Transportable by air, it uses high-powered pulsed beams for extremely high-resolution tracking of objects in space, including missiles that could be tipped with a chemical, biological, or nuclear warhead. According to Raytheon Co, the system has been described as capable of tracking an object the size of a baseball from about 2,900 miles away.
The new radar system would allow Israel’s Arrow missile defenses to engage an Iranian Shahab-3 ballistic missile about halfway through what would be its 11-minute flight from Iran to Israel. This system is far more effective than Israel’s “Green Pine” radar, and can theoretically intercept a missile over Iran or a neighboring state and not Israel. If Israel is offered the new radar system, it is likely it would be fully integrated with the emerging US missile shield, greatly enhancing Israel’s “early warning” capabilities.
The Missile Threat
The Bush visit to the region comes amid rising tensions between Iran and Israel. It is clear that the Iranian ballistic missile program is expanding. In November 2007, the Iranians tested a new Ashura long-range ballistic missile, an upgrade to the Shahab-3 missile capable of hitting Israel and Europe. Also, the February 4, 2008 launch of the Kavoshgar 1 rocket from a secret site in Iran is further evidence that the Islamic Republic is boosting its long-range ballistic missile capabilities.
Given Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls to “wipe Israel off the map” the Israeli government takes Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities very seriously. In April 2008, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, the former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and an advisor to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, stated Iran would use all means at its disposal to react to Israel if the country proves a legitimate threat to Iran.
When Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visits the US in the coming weeks, the two countries will certainly discuss missile defense. It is increasingly likely that the US will offer Israel the powerful new radar system, drastically improving the country’s target discrimination, imaging, modeling, and battle management. An X-band radar linked to the US Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system would work in concert with the US Defense Support Program support already provided to Israel to fully target any incoming threat and greatly increase the likelihood of successful missile intercepts.
With Iran defying the international community regarding its nuclear program, Israel believes it needs an advanced missile defense shield capable of detecting and intercepting missiles before entering Israeli airspace. The X-band radar system in question has these capabilities and Olmert is expected to make the case to President Bush of why Israel needs such a system.
The military relationship between the US and Israel is very strong and will remain so in the mid to long-term. Despite periodic disagreements on the diplomatic front, relations between the two countries will remain resilient and Washington will remain committed to Israel’s security. Because of this, it is increasingly likely Israel will be fully integrated in the US Ballistic Missile Defense shield.