Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Barak bids for US Vulcan Phalanx anti-Qassam missile after Israeli Iron Dome falters
The population of southwestern Israel will remain vulnerable to attack after eight years should Hamas revive the Qassam missile blitz from the Gaza Strip which has slowed down since Israel's Gaza campaign in January.Defense minister Ehud Barak, after finally accepting that the Iron Dome still under development will not be up to the task, applied to Washington to purchase Vulcan Phalanx systems worth $25 million each. Raytheon recently tested a new version fitted with a solid-state Laser Area Defense System (LADS). It outdid expectations by intercepting 60mm mortar shells fired from a distance of 450 meters. Israel's Red Color warning system works for missiles only - not mortar attack. However, Israeli cannot expect to obtain the Vulcan Phalanx any time soon; the US army ordered all the Raytheon manufacturers' product for years ahead after the short-range missile defense system proved its worth in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our Washington sources doubt, moreover that in the current cool climate governing relations, US defense secretary Robert Gates will be too forthcoming. The White House would also have to approve Israel's application.The Israeli defense minister is anxious to show that strategic ties with Washington are normal at a time that the White House is reluctant to set a date for the new Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's first visit to Washington for talks with President Barack Obama.Although recurring publicity campaigns boost the Iron Dome project, DEBKAfile's military experts have repeatedly maintained that the anti-missile system has not proved capable of intercepting enemy projectiles fired from distances as short as 4.5-5 kilometers, that is, from across the borders of Gaza and Lebanon at Israeli locations hugging those borders. In any case, operational costs would be prohibitive. The Iron Dome interceptors for downing a home-made Palestinian missile costing $500 would run to $50,000 apiece.
As in the days of Noah...