Missile Defense Updates

Missile defense is going to be an ongoing part of our lives in the future, like it or not. Israel’s recent encounter with Hizb’Allah demonstrates the need for a layered defense, and left over from the previous battles with the same opponent is an old program that is now seeing the light of day, or … the light of a thousand suns concentrated in a beam, again.

I think this is an important move for Israel, the unspoken thought about the innaccurate Katyushas is that anyone of them could have carried chemical, biologic, or nuclear packages, and Israel was unable to prevent the rain on Kiryat Shmona. They are also exploring other short-range missile defense programs as well.

Haaretz reports on the joint American-Israeli Laser defense that presents a few problems, but also a lot of potential:

To date, the debate over the Nautilus laser gun has revolved around the question of whether, if development were completed, it would be able to counter the Katyusha rocket threat. The defense establishment’s belief was that the system could not do the job, and therefore, it allowed the program to die for lack of funds. But after a month in which 15 percent of Israel’s territory was hit by nearly 4,000 Katyushas, the question has changed. Now, officials want to know how many laser guns will be necessary to protect Israel from Katyusha and Qassam rockets, and how much they will cost, once the prototype is ready.

The potential is there, and the weapon appears to be ready:

Experts at Rafael and the Defense Ministry insist that there are many technological and operational difficulties in developing a laser gun. The cost of developing the large power source is very high. However, each “shot” is relatively inexpensive, an estimated $1,000 to $3,000. It costs $3,000 to $5,000 to produce a Katyusha.  There is debate over the effective radius of the shot: The Defense Ministry says it is three to five kilometers, but Amichai and Yossi Arazi, who represents Northrop Grumman in Israel, insist that it is 10 kilometers.

According to Amichai and Arazi, the system met with 100 percent success in trials, intercepting 46 artillery shells. In contrast, the Arrow carried out 13 trials – 11 involving Rafael’s “Black Sparrow” missile, which stood in for a Scud missile, and only two with a real Scud. Of those two times, the Arrow intercepted the missile once. “If, on the basis of these trials, the Arrow became operational, then the laser gun also deserves similar status,” Amichai said.

Northrup who partnered in developing the defense is lobbying the IDF hard to start installing, we will see how this goes. It is an important step in theater short range missle defense, something the US needs as well to protect fleets.

One day soon we will have to overcome scramjet assisted missles traveling at multiples of the speed of sound, and this system looks promising for that middle-envelope before the last-ditch Phalanx starts firing, for you know it’s an “oh shit” moment for any brave sailor when the gat starts ripping fire.

You can also find some excellent analysis of the situation we are in from Austin Bay here.