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Jane’s: U.S.-Built $25-Million Base for Israel’s Arrow 3 ABM, Built to Counter Iran

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Jane’s article reveals Sdot Micha as new Arrow 3 base

Last December, Walter Pincus reported in the Washington Post that the U.S. government was building a new base for the IDF.  A highly-placed Israeli source informed me that the location of the secret base was Sdot Micha (also known as Tal Shahar), which already houses Israel’s Jericho 3 nuclear missiles.  It is located near Beit Shemesh, 15 miles from Jerusalem.  The source also informed me that the new facility was to be hardened and underground to withstand a nuclear attack.  This means that Israel expects the site to be attacked by Iranian missiles once that country has nuclear capability.

Now, the defense publication Jane’s Defense Weekly says that the new base will house Israeli’s most advanced anti-missile system, the Arrow 3, which has a 1,500 mile range.  It is an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) which is designed to intercept any Iranian missiles that might attack Israel.  The article notes there will be four new launchers each containing six “interceptors.”  Meaning Israel could launch up to 24 Arrow 3’s and use its Arrow 2 arsenal to hit any targets that were missed.

Building this base presumes a development that has, by all accounts, not happened and may never happen: that Iran is developing not just a nuclear weapon, but a delivery system for it that would allow it to attack Israel.

arrow 3

Arrow 3 missile launch

The plan is for the Army Corps of Engineer project to be completed by 2014.  The Jane’s article says Israel plans to have the Arrow 3 operational by 2015, which would mean that Israel may believe Iran could have such a missile and weapon by then.  That, of course, is a dubious proposition.  But many Israeli military calculations are built on such dubious assumptions.

The Israeli military is livid that these plans have been published (in truth, they were published last December, so I’m not sure why anyone is stewing now).  In Israel, they would be considered state secrets and kept under lock and key.  Israelis don’t understand that in America, when you plan to spend $100-million, unless you’re the CIA or NSA, you have to do so in a transparent way.  You can’t build ABM bases without anyone knowing.  That’s the difference between a national security state and a real democracy.

Jane’s says the U.S. is anticipating the project will cost up to $25-million.  But Pincus wrote last December the expense would be $100-million.  So either they scaled down this project or this is but one stage of it and more development is expected.  My bet is on the latter and that Israel plans a far more extensive Arrow 3 presence than just this facility.

Today’s Haaretz story (Hebrew here) falsely says the project was hitherto unknown (the English version of the story says that it was never revealed by Israel, which is more accurate).  That ignores Walter Pincus’ reporting on it and mine.  Unfortunately, neither Jane’s nor Haaretz spent any time focussing on the fascinating requirements in the development specs that detail what type of mezzuzah is required including the religious criteria to make it kosher.  Apparently, the IDF doesn’t trust in technology alone to save Israel, but wishes to commend itself to God as well for protection.

The Hebrew (but not English) version of the story notes also that the tender website censored, post-facto, sensitive information found there after the Jane’s story was published.

None of the media stories except mine remarked upon the strangeness of the U.S. government building highly-sensitive military facilities for Israel that could exacerbate regional tensions and conflict.  No doubt, building this facility was part of some deal offered by Obama to get Bibi to agree not to attack Iran.  But the truth is that after Arrow 3 is operational Israel might be more emboldened to attack if it believed any Iranian response could be met by its ABM fleet.  Which would mean Obama’s best intentions got us into a worse conflict than he ever could have imagined.  The best that can be hoped is that both sides adopt a MAD (mutually-assured destruction) policy which presumes an attack on one will destroy both.  Frankly, I don’t believe the Israelis feel this way even now and they certainly will feel less so after 2015.

NOTE: Sheera Frenkel’s article linked above believes there is a distinction between the $100-million project outlined by Pincus and this $25-million project.  She says the project exposed last December is a new air base near Tel Aviv.  If that’s the case, it may mean my own source confused the two projects, though he got the substance of this project correct when he revealed it last December.

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{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Nimrod June 4, 2013, 2:10 AM

    @Richard:
    Regarding your comment about the specification details about what type of mezzuzah is required including the religious criteria to make it kosher and you concluding from it that the IDF doesn’t trust in technology alone to save Israel, but wishes to commend itself to God as well for protection;

    I feel a bit of deja vu here, but in general – if you expect religious personal to serve in this installation, than mezzuzahs need to be added to the doorways. This is very standard in Israel – not only for military bases, but for all public buildings, offices, and pretty much every place where Jewish people are supposed to enter the door.
    I guess that neither Jane’s nor Haaretz bothered to report this because its trivial, irrelevant and not worth mentioning, just as it’s not worth mentioning what type of water faucets or door knobs will be used.

    • Richard Silverstein June 4, 2013, 2:36 PM

      Actually I think it’s extraordinary the building specs require the U.S. contractor to install the mezuzot. Why couldn’t the IDF chief rabbi do that?

      Not to mention that it’s extraordinarily insensitive for a State to install religious artifacts of the majority religion without making any allowance for the sensitivities of other religions.

      • Nimrod June 4, 2013, 10:54 PM

        It is extraordinary, because as far as I know, mezuzot should be installed after saying a short prayer.

        I don’t think that this is something that the IDF chief rabbi takes care of because the base was not handed to the IDF yet.
        From my experience, mezuzot in the IDF were installed by regular soldiers – usually religious ones because the rest didn’t really care if there is a mezuza or not.

        What bothers me more is why do Israel needs an U.S. contractor to build its top-secret missile base and couldn’t use an Israeli contractor, and maybe manage to keep it secret.

        • Richard Silverstein June 5, 2013, 2:43 AM

          @Nimrod: Israel turns to the U.S. to build such projects because the U.S. puts up all the money; and because the Army Corps of Engineers is world class at building such complex structures; not to mention that much of the technology in the base (except perhaps the missiles themselves) will likely be U.S.-built.

          • Nimrod June 5, 2013, 3:37 AM

            @Richard:
            How does that work exactly?
            Do U.S Army Corps of Engineers personal get to Israel and build the structures themselves?
            I get it, if they are only needed for building the complex structures which local contractors can’t. but most of the structures are simple living rooms, offices, lavatories, dining rooms and so on.

            I don’t understand the logic in getting workers from the other side of the world (who probably get pain a lot more) for this mostly basic construction work.

            Even though this is probably paid by FMF funds, its seems to me like a waste of money that could have been used for something else, and also bad for local contractors.

            Maybe I’m missing something? What kind of “technology in the base” is U.S. built and is not manufactured in Israel?

          • Richard Silverstein June 5, 2013, 5:20 PM

            I think the Army Corps serves as the general contractor and hires various U.S. sub-contractors to do different parts of the project. The Corps oversees the entire project, ensures quality control, continuity, logistics, maintaining schedule, etc.

            I suppose it’s also possible the Army Corps and subcontractors might use Israeli companies in some of the projects or might have partnerships with Israeli companies. But I don’t know that.

            Another issue for me if I was Israeli would be how secure can these facilities can be if U.S. contractors are building them. Why wouldn’t the CIA incorporate all sorts of surveillance, data collection elements into the structures? I presume they would. Though of course, Israel can inspect them & ensure they’re clean. Though there may be some agreement with the Americans not to do this. I just hope the U.S. would honor this agreement in a way Israel never seems to honor similar agreements it makes about not spying on allies.

          • Nimrod June 6, 2013, 4:50 AM

            Thank you for your replay.

    • Bob from Berkeley December 19, 2013, 2:24 PM

      Israel probably already has several Arrow 3’s in operational readiness stowed away somewhere as of Dec. 2013. That stated, Israel is the best protected state on Earth against missile attack: Patriot 3, Iron Dome, Arrow 2, two US Aegis criusers w/ SM-3 ABMs, and David’s Sling coming on line any day. Good luck for anyone trying to get through all that fire power!

  • Matan June 4, 2013, 3:21 AM

    It’s just the cold war nuclear arms race all over again. Next step is MIRVs.

    • MarkyMark June 4, 2013, 7:28 AM

      Er, these are defensive. So it’s not like the nuclear arms race, at all. Also Richard: its Jewish tradition across all denominations to have a mezuzah. My family is not religious, many are very secular and even cynical about religion yet they have mezuzahs. Why wouldn’t army facilities as well? Office buildings in Israel do. If it’s Jewish owned, or used by Jews mostly, why wouldn’t it have a mezuzah? Even an army facility. That mezuzah comment seems like a cheap swipe against Israel

      • Richard Silverstein June 4, 2013, 2:33 PM

        Leave it to you to misunderstand what I wrote. My point was that even so called defensive weapons can provoke hostilities by giving Israeli military strategists the impression they can defend against an Iranian counter attack after an Israeli first strike.

      • Coldtype June 4, 2013, 3:57 PM

        MM you are mistaken if you fail to realize the offensive ramifications of a defensive missile shield. If such a system where feasible (currently it isn’t) then the fear of retaliation from a first strike would be removed. This is a highly aggressive and provocative move on Israel’s part which makes no bones about the fact that it poses an existential threat to Iran.

      • Matan June 4, 2013, 11:04 PM

        Read a history book, man. During the cold war, the soviets developed defensive missiles, which broke the MAD doctrine. The “solution” was for the USA to develop MIRV warheads, which the defensive missiles of the time couldn’t defend against efficiently.

        Which is why I commented that the next step is MIRVs.

  • kevin June 4, 2013, 12:22 PM

    How can anyone be certain this construction is for defensive missiles? Could this complex/silos also be used for offensive missiles? How dedicated or transparent are such bases?

  • The Mighty Cynic June 4, 2013, 1:22 PM

    [The nutcases at Veterans's Today & PressTV are entirely unsuitable sources & quoting them as credible will get your comment deleted every time.]

    • The Mighty Cynic June 5, 2013, 9:25 AM

      Why not try to prove that they’re nutcases instead of just doing exactly what the hasbarists do to you on a daily basis, which is to play thought police? These are people with accreditation and information that are accepted by four star generals (and their former chiefs of staff) as the current geopolitical reality. You can try to label the truth whatever you want, but “eppur si muove”, as Galileo would tell you.

      Your “google” research and sources that manipulate you for ulterior motives (Prisoner X) are better? Fine. I like you as a person, but I guess it’s time to take my ball and leave since my input is not welcome.

      • Richard Silverstein June 5, 2013, 5:07 PM

        YOUR personal input is one thing. But quoting Veteran’s Today & PressTV is quite another. They are only consulted by four star generals who want to understand the delusional thought processes of the Iranian establishment or the far-left crazies in the U.S. anti war movement.

        And anytime I read the word “Rothschild” or similar sorts of rhetoric in a comment my skin crawls from the anti-Semitic content. You may not even know that you’re doing it. Or maybe you’re just testing me. Whatever the reason, you know the rules, conditions, & limits. Accept them & comment or don’t. It’s your choice.

  • Jamie June 4, 2013, 8:36 PM

    So it’s okay for Israel to build this defensive, anti-missile base, but Syria receiving its delivery of S-300 missile batteries from Russia is a highly provocative move, right?

    • Daniel June 4, 2013, 10:46 PM

      Of course. It’s always unacceptable for Arabs to defend themselves.

    • Daniel F. June 5, 2013, 12:50 AM

      Jamie,
      “Arrow 3, which has a 1,500 mile range, is an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) which is designed to intercept any Iranian missiles that might attack Israel”.
      S-300 missiles shoot down planes, both civilian and military and as such their deployment is provocative.

    • Richard Silverstein June 5, 2013, 1:34 AM

      Hmm, I must’ve missed something. Like the part where I endorsed the shipment of S-300 missiles to Syria. I must’ve written it because Jamie here implied I did. So maybe Jamie can show me, before he makes a further fool out of himself, where I wrote that.

  • dickerson3870 June 4, 2013, 9:40 PM

    RE: “No doubt, building this facility was part of some deal offered by Obama to get Bibi to agree not to attack Iran. But the truth is that after Arrow 3 is operational Israel might be more emboldened to attack if it believed any Iranian response could be met by its ABM fleet. Which would mean Obama’s best intentions got us into a worse conflict than he ever could have imagined.” ~ R.S.

    MY FIRST COMMENT: Perhaps this is just an example of “loving Israel to death”! ! !
    FROM PHILIP WEISS, 6/04/13: “As Obama did, Kerry fawned over Israel. They believe that the only way Israelis will do something is if you love them to death.http://mondoweiss.net/2013/06/kerry-lobby-radicalizing.html

    MY SECOND COMMENT: Obama and Kerry should talk to some good psychiatrists about the wrongheadedness of being Israel’s enabler out of the (mistaken*) belief that “the only way Israelis will do something is if you love them to death”**. They need to understand that it is possible for an enabler to literally love the enabled to its (literal) death.***

    * FROM JOEL KOVEL, 1-20-13:

    . . . As with everyone I know of in official political culture, [Thomas] Friedman [probably like Kerry and Obama - J.L.D.] assumes that Israel is a rational actor on the international stage who will obey the calculus of reward and punishment that regulates the conduct of normal states.
    The presumption is that if you tell it the truth, and even pull back US support, it will get the message, reflect, and change its ways. But Israel is not a normal state, except superficially. It will make adjustments, pulling back here, co-operating there, making nice when necessary, crafting its message using a powerful propaganda apparatus employing the most up-to-date social science. But this is simply tactical and no more predicts or explains the behavior of the Zionist state than an individual sociopath can be explained by the fact that he obeys traffic signals while driving to the scene of his crime. . .

    SOURCE – http://mondoweiss.net/2013/01/israel-nominaton-hagel.html

    ** ALSO SEE: “It’s Time for Some Israel Real Talk”, By Jaclyn Friedman, Prospect.org, 2/20/13

    [EXCERPT] . . . I love Israel. As an American Jew, the dream of Israel has held me in thrall since I was a small child. The day I wept at the Wailing Wall was one of the most transcendent and emotional of my life. But loving someone doesn’t mean helping them do whatever destructive thing they want. Call that enabling or co-dependence, but it’s not love. I love Israel like I’d love a drunk friend who wants their car keys. . .

    SOURCE – http://prospect.org/article/it%E2%80%99s-time-some-israel-real-talk

    *** AND SEE: “How Israel Is Like an Alcoholic Mother”, by Megan McArdle, The Atlantic, 3/22/12

    [EXCERPT] . . . What is it Alex Portnoy overhears his mother say to her friends, apropos of the lengths she has to go to to get him to eat? “I have to stand over him with a knife!”
    To be a bit more serious for a moment, though, Chesterton famously quipped: “My country, right or wrong is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying: “My mother, drunk or sober.” Well, yes, but she is your mother, drunk or sober, right? Similarly, it is your country, whether your country is right or wrong. The question is what that entails. If your mother is a drunk, and begs for another drink, are you obliged to give it to her? Presumably not.
    But are you obliged to devote yourself to getting her to dry out? That, it seems to me is the real heart of the question. I think many of Beinart’s critics — like Jeffrey Goldberg — would say: that’s exactly how they think about Israel and the settlements. They are against them. . . They think they were and are a grave and historic mistake. . .
    . . . So they are doing what they can to convince their mother to check herself in and dry out. But she’s their mother. If it takes her a long time to convince, they’ll keep trying. If she slips a drink on the sly, they’ll try to hide the liquor better, but they’ll forgive her. [In other words, they will act as "enablers". ~ J.L.D.] And, whatever she does, they certainly aren’t going to call the cops on her, and give the neighbors (who never liked her, even have tried to get her evicted) the satisfaction of seeing her humiliated by her own son in public. After all, she’s their mother. [Let's call this "constructive engagement"! ~ J.L.D.]
    Well, talk to a few children of alcoholics, and you’ll discover that “my mother, drunk or sober” is not always a tenable proposition. Sometimes, for some people, the sense of obligation to one’s mother is trumped by a sense of obligation to oneself, and to protect oneself from her disease. And that, in a nutshell, is what Beinart is saying. She may be my mother, yes, but if she keeps carrying on, I don’t care what the neighbors say, and I don’t care if she never speaks to me again afterward: I’m going to call the cops on her. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/how-israel-is-like-an-alcoholic-mother/254939/

  • What's defensive and what's offensive? June 5, 2013, 12:33 AM

    If I understand this correctly, Israel (or is that the USA?) is busy ringing their ballistic missile silos with anti-ballistic missile silos.

    So, that leaves a couple of possibilities:
    a) The IDF is building these ABM defences to protect their citizenry, and it makes sense to locate these defences *here* because of the existing infrastructure.
    b) The IDF doesn’t give a damn about the civvies, all it is concerned about is protecting those Jericho 3 missiles so it has a viable “second-strike”.
    c) The IDF is really, really, really itching to launch its Jericho 3 missiles the first excuse it gets, but fears that if their timing is wrong then Iran might launch a pre-emptive strike while those preparations are underway – hence the need to set up defences against an Israeli-style sneak-attack-in-reverse.
    d) The IDF just loooooves spending US Greenbacks, so any excuse to milk Uncle Sam’s teat is too good an opportunity to pass up.

    I wonder which one is the correct one?

  • Ricky June 13, 2013, 2:10 AM

    Did the U.S never spy after it allies?
    Is there not a single evidence that you are right?
    Is there a chance that you are blind or at least misguided?

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