by Leah Krauss
Haifa, Israel (UPI) Dec 20, 2007
The Israel Defense Forces this week announced progress in testing a new Patriot missile launching system in southern Israel. “(The system’s) updated design, developed by the Americans — primarily with the help of lessons learned from the war in Iraq — was installed and successfully tested with one of the Israeli Patriot missiles,” the IDF said in a statement from the spokesman.
“The ballistic threats (to Israel) are only increasing,” Lt. Col. Shabbatai Ben-Bohar — the first commander of the Patriot Battery Unit to try the new launching system — said via the IDF statement. “Our enemies understand that in air-to-air combat we have the upper hand, so they prefer to hide among the civilian population and launch ballistic missiles, knowing (they won’t be caught),” Ben-Bohar continued.
“As such, the new missile system has to address the reality Ben-Bohar describes,” the IDF said in the statement. “The new system represents another step in improving the interception of surface-to-surface missiles; now that it has passed the true test (of successful launches), it is expected to be installed for all Patriot missiles (in Israel).”
“In Tuesday’s experiment, the first of its kind in a very long period of time, a missile was launched at a target simulating an airplane carrying out an attack mission. The improved missile was able to successfully intercept the target,” according to a report on the test from the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.
“Israel is improving the system’s radar and range as part of the implementation of lessons learned from the 34-day war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, during which the radical Lebanese movement fired nearly 4,000 Katyusha rockets at northern Israeli towns and communities,” the newspaper report continued.
This development, and the test itself, were carried out with the cooperation of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., one of Israel’s largest defense firms. The company announced in August that the Iron Dome, a short-range, rocket-based missile interception system, would be operational within a year and a half. Later, in October, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited the United States to discuss, among other things, missile defense collaboration.
“We are giving high priority to the production of a system involving several projects, which, within a few years, will provide protection for Israel from about 90 percent of all attempts to fire rockets at us, from (Iranian) Shihab missiles to Qassams (from Gaza),” he said at the time. “In the longer range, we will have, for many reasons, to achieve a much higher interception level.”
Israel’s Patriot testing is just the latest development in a longstanding cooperation with the United States on missile defense. The Arrow Weapons System was jointly developed by the two countries and continues to be upgraded. In late July the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved $26 million in federal funding for the Arrow System Improvement Program, according to the office of Rep. Steve Rothman, D-N.J., a member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense.
At that time, Rothman said of the appropriation, “The Arrow program is one of the most advanced missile defense systems around and has been proven to work in tests against real and surrogate targets in California and Israel.
“It provides essential protection against ballistic missiles for Israel’s civilian population, as well as U.S. troops in the Middle East.
“In light of Iran’s open hostility toward the U.S. and Israel, I consider increasing the effectiveness of the Arrow system to be essential to our defense. This technology, along with diplomacy, can help us avert another deadly and costly war,” Rothman said.