Strengthening the Shield
Reuters is reporting that the U.S. will soon link Israel to a pair of advanced missile detection systems, to improve defenses against a possible Iranian attack.
Later this year, Raytheon will install a powerful, X-band radar on Israeli soil. Capable of tracking a baseball-sized object at a range of up to 2,900 miles, the system will improve detection of Iranian missile activity, including potential Shahab-3 launches against Israel. The medium-range Shahab-3 is the only operational Iranian system capable of striking Israeli targets.
Additionally, the United States will provide greater access to Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites, the overhead constellation that detects missile activity (and other events) through IR emissions. In the past, the Defense Department has provided DSP data to Tel Aviv on a case-by-case basis. But, judging from the comments of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israel will now apparently enjoy near-total access to the system.
Mr. Barak also said that his country and the U.S. are “in negotiations” over other, possible upgrades to Israel’s missile shield, built around the Green Pine radar and the Arrow II interceptor. One option would add U.S. interceptor missiles to the system, although the Israelis don’t seem particularly enthusiastic about that offer. From their perspective, addition of the U.S. missiles might result in a reduction of military aid for improvements of the Arrow II.
However, other reports have suggested that Israel might be interested in some American hardware, most notably the Aegis/SM-3 combination that shot down that dying spy satellite in February, and the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), under development by the U.S. Army. The Israelis are interested in full integration of their existing systems with THAAD and Aegis, building on the linkage that already exists. Currently, Israel’s Arrow II and Patriot batteries can share data with some U.S. systems, including Aegis-equipped cruisers and destroyers.
Barak indicated that the X-band radar will be deployed in his country “before the next [American] administration takes office.” That comments suggests that Tel Aviv is hedging its bets about a potential Obama administration, and his willingness to support Israel.