Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Accurate Missile Warning for Israel

Israel is developing a system that will predict a missile's landing point with greatly improved accuracy, permitting tailored warnings for the country's civilian population.

Haaretz reports that the new system--which should be operational in 18 months--will allow Israel's Home Front Command to order alerts across relatively small areas, rather than broad regions of the country.

Currently, Israel is divided into 10 large districts for missile alerts, forcing large segments of the population into shelters during actual warnings and civil defense drills. Under the new system, Israel will be divided into 100 smaller districts, with alerts issued for areas specifically targeted by enemy missiles.

As an interim measure, the 10 existing districts will be split into 27 warning areas by next year. The total will increase to 100 once the alert system becomes fully operational.

Israel's new warning network is a recognition of several factors. First, the IDF expects sustained missile attacks as a key component of future conflict. Secondly, if fewer people have to run for shelters during individual attacks, the populace will be able to better endure enemy strikes.

The advanced warning system would allow more Israelis can carry on with daily routines when their neighborhoods aren't directly threatened. That could prevent a recurrence of the paralysis that gripped much of Israel in the 2006 war with Hizballah. During that conflict, the northern half of the country was pounded by repeated missile and rocket attacks, bringing normal life to a halt.

As Haaretz notes, the new system is heavily based on technological assistance provided by the United States. Over the last year, Washington has given Tel Aviv more access to data from Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites, which detect the thermal signatures of missiles shortly after launch. Additionally, the U.S. is installing a powerful surveillance radar in the Negev Desert, capable of detecting missile launches at a range of 1,900 miles. Data from those sources--and others--feed into the IAF system, producing more accurate assessments of where missiles will land.

Israel's original system for predicting missile impact points was developed during the First Gulf War, and upgraded prior to the 2006 Lebanon conflict. But after hundreds of attacks by Hizballah missiles and rockets, the IAF decided to take a new approach, creating a system that enables more pinpoint predictions.

The new warning network also hinges on an effective civil defense system, something that Israel has long emphasized. After all, advanced alert technology is of little use if the public doesn't know how to properly respond. But decades of living with the threat--and a nationwide civil defense program--ensure that Israelis will respond correctly.

While the advanced warning system is optimized for short and medium-range ballistic missiles (like Syrian SCUDs and Iranian Shahab-3s), it is expected to provide some detection of short-range threats, including Hizballah rockets fired from southern Lebanon. In the near future, the detection technology will be linked with another system, which will actually engage those threats.

The new detection and tracking system will also facilitate more accurate engagements by Israel's Arrow II ballistic missile defense system, reducing the number of enemy rockets that actually get through. But, like any other system, the Arrow II is subject to saturation. That's another reason that Israel needs a state-of-the-art warning system--just in case.

1 comment:

lgude said...

Without overdoing it I generally regard Israel's predicament as a leading indicator of what the West can expect if Islamic extremism goes unchecked. I therefore find you analysis of what is going on underneath the surface between Israel and Iran very helpful indeed.