In the past, I’ve featured the skeptical reporting of Reuven Pedatzur and research of Prof. Ted Postol about the efficacy of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense. Pedatzur reported on Postol’s findings that the anti-missile succeeded in hitting less than 10% of its targets during the last major Gaza offensive, instead of the 85% success rate offered by the IDF. Postol published his findings in collaboration with two other Israeli rocket engineers.
Now, Yossi Melman offers an even more widely critical (Hebrew) appraisal of Israel’s entire missile defense strategy from another Israeli aeronautical engineer, Dr. Nathan Farber, who taught at the Technion and is a former chief scientist in the Israeli defense industry. Farber finds that the likelihood that Israel could experience a coordinated attack from several enemies firing up to 1,000 rockets in a single day, would lead to a disastrous failure of the missile defense system. The Israeli scientist estimates that up to a third would be destroyed by the IDF, a third would fail either to launch or due to mechanical failure, and a third will successfully approach their target. These are the ones the missile-defense system would need to shoot down. Due to the precision of the tactical missiles that would be launched, most of them would strike their targets in Israel unless intercepted. Farber also confirms that these are figures accepted by the IDF and Israeli intelligence. Farber has written an extended presentation of his views here (Hebrew).
In the course of an extended military engagement, Iron Dome might have to deal with up to 30,000 rockets. He further notes that in order to shoot down 400 ballistic missiles that would be fired at Israel, it would need at least 800 interceptors. Each Arrow missile costs upward of $3-million. The total cost of such weaponry might run up to $3-billion. Similarly, to intercept all the tactical missiles targeted at Israel would cost around $1-2 billion. To defend against short-range missiles would require up to 60,000 Iron Dome projectiles, each one of which costs about $100,000, for a total of $6-billion. None of this includes the cost of manufacturing the missile batteries that would fire them.
So Israel’s missile defense strategy is faulty from two perspectives: economic and operational. The cost would be upward of $10-billion. Immediately after hostilities ended, Israel would be forced to expend a similar sum to replenish its missile inventory. Such a process would take years.
Operationally, Farber says that Israel simply has, to date, no satisfactory defense against Iran’s ballistic missiles. He adds that Iran has approximately 800 of such weapons. Even if we assume that a large number will fail in flight or be destroyed in some other fashion, that leaves a ton of them that will get through. In other words, Israel simply has no guaranteed defense against them, regardless of the affirmations offered by Israeli leaders and generals that the homeland is safe from attack should Israel go to war against Iran. It simply isn’t. Which makes Bibi’s martial threats an exercise either in lunacy or national suicide.
As an official admitted when questioned on the subject in this Haaretz report:
The Israeli official…was circumspect on how Israel’s three-tier shield would function in a major missile exchange…
“You need to pass this test – of a few dozen of them landing, in real time – to be able to speak about it with more certainty,” the official said.
Sure makes Israeli civilians seem like guinea pigs to me with their military rocketeers playing Russian roulette with their lives.
On a related matter, in its wisdom the U.S. undertook development of the Arrow anti-missile system with Israel. Originally, it was projected to cost $1.6-billion. As of 2007, that figure had already reached $2.4-billion. We are now developing the third generation of Arrows (Arrow 3s) and there is no end in sight. It’s estimated that the U.S. is footing up to 80% of the cost.
You remember that one Congressional wag compared approving a bill to making sausage. Well funding Arrow involved a whole lot of sausage. And a lot of political suasion. But that wasn’t difficult because Aipac is Israel’s political lobby and members of Congress dutifully carry water for the 51st state (Israel). One of the greatest of all the water-carriers was Sen. Daniel Inouye, from the unlikely (for an Israeli ally) state of Hawaii. Inouye was a key figure in military appropriations and was instrumental in greasing any funding request involving weapons for Israel.
In fact, he was such a trusty ally that former Aipac chair, Robert Ascher persuaded Bibi Netanyahu to name Israel’s new Arrow base in Inouye’s memory. Israeli announced a new joint Israel-U.S. test of the Arrow 3 today. Though the Jerusalem Post described the base’s location as “secret,” it isn’t any longer. According to my Israeli source it is at Sdot Micha, also the site of Israel’s Jericho ballistic missile fleet. The U.S. observes the polite fiction that Israel has no nuclear weapons, so it cannot by law participate in the Jericho project. But as the Washington Post reported, the U.S. has bid out hundreds of millions in construction contracts for the Arrow facility at Sdot Micha. I’ve blogged about this here.
The Post, of course, wrote about the memorial to Inouye as if it was deeply touching, as indeed it would be to Aipac or Israel or Inouye’s family. But let me play the contrarian: why should a U.S. senator be immortalized at a military base of a foreign country? Put his name on a battleship at Pearl Harbor, by all means. But on an Israeli missile base? Who was he working for? His constituents or Israel? And don’t anyone dare say there’s no difference. No doubt the people of Hawaii didn’t expect him to have Israel’s best interests at heart.