Posts Tagged ‘Nathan Farber’

U.S. to explore upgrades for Israel’s missile defense capabilities

July 29, 2008

Comment: I blogged on this topic earlier, noting that ballistics expert Dr. Nathan Farber’s appeal to bring the Phalanx interceptor system and other systems to the Western Negev received far too little attention — while Israel awaits the slow completion of Iron Dome. This would help Israel take a more defensive posture in the short term while giving the country more breathing space to contemplate a long term political solution. By no means do I believe the advent of any weapons system could solve this problem, of course. Now it appears Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has come around, making the acquisition of these systems a key issue in his current U.S. visit, largely to the credit of Dr. Nathan Farber and Ha’aretz for pushing the story. Kudos. (I did my part, but let’s face it nobody reads my blog)

(Haaretz) — “[Israeli Defense Minister] Barak is considering purchasing or borrowing several Phalanx automated cannons from the United States. The cannons intercept incoming mortar shells and short-range rockets, and would be used to defend Sderot and other Negev towns from rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

The defense minister was expected to ask Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to appraise the Phalanx’s performance.

That assessment will be used to help the government decide whether to bring the anti-missile system to Israel.

The new development comes after a series of articles in Haaretz, in which Dr. Natan Farber – an expert in ballistic missiles from the Technion – expressed his support for the project.

However, several Defense Ministry officials said the Phalanx system is not effective enough, and argue that Israel should focus on developing the Iron Dome defense system, which will not be ready before 2011…” Click for full article

Phalanx anyone?

March 6, 2008

phalanx2.jpg
(Ship mounted Phalanx artillery battery)

In light of the explosive situation between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, it’s surprising that this story, now a few weeks old, has hardly garnered the attention it deserves. Ha’aretz correspondent Reuven Pedatzur reports that the ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense system under development by Israel’s Rafael Advance Defense Systems is useless to protect Sderot and other Israeli towns in the western Negev adjacent to the Gaza Strip. The reason is simple, as Pedatzur points out, “The distance from the edge of Beit Hanun (in the Gaza Strip) to the outskirts of Sderot is 1,800 meters. Therefore, a rocket launched from Beit Hanun takes about nine seconds to hit Sderot. The developers of Iron Dome at Rafael Advance Defense Systems know that the preparations to simply launch the intercept missiles at their target take up to about 15 seconds (during which time the system locates the target, determines the flight path and calculates the intercept route). Obviously, then, the Qassam will slam into Sderot quite a number of seconds before the missile meant to intercept it is even launched.”

One needs not be a weapons expert to realize the incompetence behind the project. How could it be, with so many intelligent scientists and arms experts in Israel, nobody raised this rudimentary problem before the Israeli Defense Ministry decided to invest in the doomed project? Especially when there’s a much cheaper, more effective and readily available alternative found in the American made Phalanx artillery battery, developed by Raytheon to protect sitting duck warships from incoming missiles. The system has a radar (looks like R2D2) which tracks the trajectory of incoming projectiles and is then capable of firing 6,000 shells per minute at its target. And at least one of those shells usually scores a hit. The Phalanx also has a precedent of use over land, as seen in its deployment in the Green Zone in Iraq to protect U.S. forces from missiles and mortar barrages. I’m usually not one to pin my hopes on technological solutions, as though some new weapon system could finally put an end to the long-standing political conflict between Arabs and Israelis, but this could clearly help diffuse the situation.

Dr. Nathan Farber, a highly reputable ballistics expert believes that a mere five Phalanx artillery batteries, costing $1 million a piece (peanuts by the standards of Israel’s defense budget), would provide immediate relief to the residents of Sderot and other towns in the western Negev from daily Qassam barrages. Farber also writes off any environmental concerns as practically a non-issue, because the shells travel at such a high rate of speed, those which miss their target would end up somewhere over the Mediterranean before landing, and thus won’t pose a danger to residents of Israeli towns. Dr. Farber legitimately asks, “Why not deploy Phalanx batteries in the meanwhile (while Iron Dome is still under development), and protect the residents of Sderot? It will be cheaper, no less efficient, and above all provide immediate protection. If it’s good enough for the Americans in Iraq, why can’t it be good for us?” Pedatzur suggests that so-called “blue and white” economic motives were behind the decision to develop the homegrown Iron Dome system despite its obvious shortcomings in comparison to superior foreign-made alternatives. If true, it’s totally shameful and if not, the incompetence explanation isn’t much more promising. Those in the Defense Ministry should realize a rapidly escalating war with Hamas is ultimately far more costly, and in more ways than financial cost.

Most importantly, the advantages of the Phalanx don’t end with protecting the residents of the western Negev. If the system proves itself capable of intercepting most Qassams, it will end Israel’s immediate crisis, giving it some breathing space to seek a longer-term solution, undercut Hamas’ leverage over Israel, avert the inevitable large scale Israeli invasion of Gaza, and save a lot of lives in the process — including those Gazans who support the rocketing of Israel but don’t realize how much it’s hurting them. For these reasons alone, isn’t it at least worth trying? Dr. Farber has pleaded with the Defense Ministry to deploy Phalanx artillery batteries immediately, so far to no avail.

Pretty cool toy