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Israeli Missile Defense: Not Katyusha-Ready

Israelis are used to missile attacks; they've spent tons of cash on missile defense systems. So why have their interceptors been silent, as a thousand Katyushas have slammed into their soil? Victoria Samson, the Center for Defense Information's resident missile defense sage, has the answer: the Israeli systems are built to stop longer-range missiles -- ones that fly for hundreds of miles, like those Iraqi Scuds that fell on Tel Aviv during the first Gulf War, or the missiles Iran might one day nuke-equip.) The shorter-range projectiles that Hezbollah is firing are are too quick, and too mobile, for these interceptors to catch.arrow_y.jpg

Israel has a two-tiered missile defense system. The first, the Arrow Weapon System, is to intercept ballistic missiles in their final phase of flight. It would do so by shooting the U.S.-developed Arrow II interceptor at a threat. Once the Israel-developed Green Pine Fire Control Radar, Citron Tree Fire Control Center, and Hazel Nut Tree Launcher Center have sent the interceptor near the target, the Arrow II would blow up, with the hope that the fragments from the blast would either destroy the target or knock it sufficiently off course so that it would no longer remain a threat. There are two Arrow batteries deployed. One covers the center of Israel from its position in Palmahim, while the other in Ein Shemer is supposed to defend Israels northern territory...Israel also has an early version of the U.S. Patriot missile defense system. The Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-2 is designed to defend against ballistic missile targets in their terminal phase as well; also, it would provide defense via a blast-fragmentation warhead... The Patriot differs from the Arrow in that it aims at targets which are at lower altitudes.[But] neither missile defense system has been used is because they are not designed to intercept short-range rockets. It is estimated that of the 13,000 or so rockets and missiles in Hezbollahs arsenal, 11,000 of them are of the Katyusha type. These rockets have a short range maybe up to nine miles or so and a small warhead of roughly 40 pounds. Based on vintage Soviet technology, these rockets can be rolled out of a hiding place, shot, and rolled back in before any detection can be made. Their flight is over in seconds, making tracking difficult, much less shooting anything down. A system would have to be in exactly the right place to detect the missile once it is launched, then the defensive system would have to make a nearly instantaneous decision to respond, after which the interceptor would have to get to the target quickly enough to destroy it. It is an exceedingly difficult proposition when the flight times are as short as those launched by Hezbollah.
That's one of the reasons why Israel spent year pursuing a speed-of-light rocket defense, the Tactical High Energy Laser -- and why some folks are trying to re-introduce an updated version of the system to the Sabras.But even an updated THEL will take years to get ready. In the short term, Israel's plan seems to be to clear out as much of southern Lebanon as possible, the Times notes.
Homes in southern Lebanon received taped phone calls in Arabic warning that they needed to evacuate because strikes would hit house by house. The recording ended by saying it came from the Israeli Army. The Israelis also used a radio station near the border to broadcast warnings into southern Lebanon for residents to leave.The radio warning also stressed that any truck, including pickups, traveling south of the Litani River would be suspected of transporting weapons or rockets, and could therefore be a target.
(Big ups: TP)
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