NATIV Online        

  Vol. 4  /  June 2004                      A JOURNAL OF POLITICS AND THE ARTS      


The Israeli Aspect of Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD):
Strategy by Default

    Arieh Stav

         This article was written in 1998 and is a chapter from the book,
    Ballistic Missiles: The Threat and the Response,
    Arieh Stav (ed.), ACPR Publishers and
    Brassey's (UK) Ltd., 1999.
    The book was reprinted and released as
     The Threat of Ballistic Missiles in the Middle East: Active Defense and Counter Measures,
    Arieh Stav (ed.), Sussex Academic Press
    and ACPR Publishers, August 2004.

    Had we possessed missiles when the Americans attacked Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986, we would have launched them against London, Washington and New York.
    Mu`amar Qad`afi

Weapons of Mass Destruction – The Geo-Strategic Outlook

These words of Qad`afi, said only seven years ago, have in the mean time become actualizable in reality. He is not yet capable of launching missiles against the East Coast of the US, but since the Iraqis transferred the production of weapons of mass destruction to his country and to Sudan, he is capable of launching them against southern Europe.2 Furthermore, he is able to launch from ships, MRPVs loaded with a quantity of poison gas or anthrax spores, which are lethal enough to cause a catastrophe at a range of hundreds of kilometers from the shore. The minute radar signature of the MRPV motor, the only component made of metal, makes its detection and interception extremely difficult. In this way, all the capitals of the Western world are potentially in danger of becoming, in only a short time from now, hostages of dictators like Saddam Hussein, Mu`amar Qad`afi or Hafez el Assad, as well as being threatened by terrorist organizations rich in assets and financing, such as the PLO. At the present time, three capitals of NATO members (Ankara, Athens and Rome) lie within range of the ballistic missile threat of totalitarian regimes.

At the End of the Cold War Era

The hegemony of the two super powers, who protected their allies, was based on the balance of fear in the era of the Cold War. This situation gave them unquestioned authority, as in the case of the communist bloc Warsaw Pact, and relatively less unquestioned but still pronounced authority, in the case of NATO. In such an arrangement, where the concentrated and centralized power of the pact is great, the freedom of maneuver of an individual country is limited.

Furthermore, great importance was attached to self-restraint as demonstrated in a “moral code”, which resulted from the recognition that the mutual destruction would be absolute. This was because the opponents possessed the capability to wipe out life on Earth if matters were allowed to escalate, as often referred to by the somewhat macabre acronym, MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction).

This recognition of the possibility of loss of control and then worldwide catastrophe caused the setting up of technical coordination arrangements between the two super powers, such as the “hot line”, and an understanding in principle that countries outside the two defense organizations would not be supplied with weapons of mass destruction, or the means of launching them.3 In the global reality in which the technologies for manufacturing nuclear weapons were out of reach of the Third World, this polarized world therefore represented an insurance policy for the survival of the human race.

However, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the bi-polar world order also marked the end of the hegemony of the two super powers, and the freedom of maneuver of each individual country correspondingly increased. The framework of strategic influence also failed, with increasing importance and priority being attached to purely economic considerations. The economic depression that hit the West in the first half of the 1990s was due in large measure to the reduction in defense spending. The defense budget of the US alone was reduced by $50 billion over five years – from $300 billion in 1990 to $250 billion in 1996 (reckoned in 1990 dollars). The relative military expenditure of the other NATO countries was reduced even more; from an average of 4-5% of the GDP to 2-3%.

The philosophy of a market economy, on which the former communist bloc bases its hopes for economic improvement and democracy, also gave the signal for removing restrictions on sales of arms, at dumping prices and without considerations of strategic utility and effect. All of this has been based on short-term thinking, enslaved and propelled by the ruthless greed of raw capitalism, Russian style.

In the light of this situation, the Middle East market assumed even greater importance in the plans of the arms manufacturers. Not only is the market saturated with material of the first degree and its potential to encourage war, but it is also the sole region in the world whose countries are capable of paying the exorbitant sums demanded for the weapons systems of future battle fields. In fact, in a very short time the Middle East received 42% of all world arms sales – per state, 20 times the world average for a single country. The US share of these sales has come to 80%, as a result of the reputation its weapons acquired during the Gulf War.

The Escalation of the Arms Race in the Service of the Jihad Ethos

All the circumstances described above, together and separately, are accentuated by the background of the Islamic ethos, which glorifies war as a supreme religious imperative. This is embodied in the principle of the Jihad, which strives to make Islam rule the world. The obsession with acquiring weapons of destruction is the primary characteristic of the Semitic domain and the common denominator of the entire Arab and Islamic world. This is true whether we are referring to Saudi Arabia, Libya and the rich Gulf Emirates, or to poor Third World countries, such as Syria, Jordan or Egypt. For instance, the defense budget of Saudi Arabia comes to about $20 billion, about ten times greater than the defense budgets of European countries having a similar GDP. In any case, the Saudi army does not require such tremendous amounts of weaponry, since it is incapable of operating them by itself. All that applies to Saudi Arabia is even truer of the Gulf Emirates. The arms purchases of Kuwait (relative to its population) were the highest in the world before the Gulf War and this is now the case once again.

Egypt is an example of the opposite economic case, which proves the validity of the assumption made in this chapter. After signing the peace agreement with Israel, Egypt was not faced with any perceivable serious external threat. Egypt with an annual GDP of about $780 per person, spends more than $14 billion a year on its army – 28% of the GDP, a percentage that generally characterizes a country at war.4

Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Service of the Jihad Ethos

The acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by Arab Islamic countries has been occurring in the Middle East at least since the middle of the 1960s, when the Egyptian Air force destroyed villages in Yemen with mustard gas. The second case was in 1982, when Hafez el Assad ordered the killing of 20,000 “Moslem Brothers” in Hamat with cyanide gas. During the Iran-Iraq war, both sides used gas warfare on a large scale (1,000 tons) and in 1988 the Iraqis destroyed Kurdish villages with gas (the case of the village of Halabchah is well known).

The three classical means of mass destruction are nuclear (atomic), biological and chemical weapons (ABC). The development of nuclear weapons requires a first class scientific infrastructure and considerable financial investment, but chemical (and biological) weapons are readily available, their technologies are simple and their cost very low. For example, the production cost of one kilogram of Sarin or Tabun nerve gas is about $15. Thus, the warhead of a Scud missile, which contains 300 kgs. of active material, costs only $4500. To fill it with explosives would cost three times as much.

The low production cost is reduced even further when one considers the effectiveness of chemical material compared to explosives. A Scud missile with a one ton chemical warhead (300 kgs. of active material), hitting a city having a population density similar to that of Tel Aviv, would cause 200-3,000 fatalities and a similar number of severely wounded.5 However, a missile armed with a conventional explosive warhead would cause five deaths and 13 injured.6 The very small number of injured in the greater Tel Aviv area during the missile attack in the winter of 1991, is example of this. Not only are chemical weapons cheaper, but they are 700 times more effective (!) than conventional weapons of the same weight. In other words, it costs $5,000 to kill a person using conventional explosives, but only $7-125 to kill him using chemical weapons.

Anthrax – “The Poor Man’s Atom Bomb”

Contrary to Saddam Hussein’s claim, a biological weapon rather than a chemical weapon is the “poor man’s atom bomb”. The former has a lethality coefficient a hundred times greater than the latter, and similar to that of a nuclear explosion. This is not the place to discuss all the different kinds of biological weapons, but it needs to be emphasized that the pathogen (the disease generating organism, bacillus anthracis) that produces anthrax, is the biological weapon possessed by Iraq and Syria (and apparently produced with Libyan-Egyptian cooperation). The outstanding ability of the anthrax bacterium to survive under extreme pressure, temperature and environmental conditions makes it an ideal biological weapon for delivery using missiles or bombs. The anthrax bacterium is lethal in concentrations one thousand times smaller than the amount required for nerve gas to be lethal. Virtually, all those who contract anthrax die within four days of exposure. It is fairly certain that the effectiveness of immunization, at least that currently existing, is extremely limited. In any case, it may reasonably be assumed that the Iraqis have changed the genetic code of the bacterium, without it losing its lethality.

In general terms it may be supposed that a relatively small nuclear explosion (20 kiloton) has a lethality 10,000 times greater than a warhead containing one ton of conventional explosive, and 10 to 100 times greater than a warhead containing nerve gas (300 kgs. active material), and is similar in lethality to a warhead containing anthrax spores (30 kgs. active material).

The Advantage of Missiles for Delivering ABC Weapons

When the two major alternatives for delivering ABC weapons to the target are considered, the advantage of the missile over the aircraft predominates. An aircraft is more accurate than a missile and can carry a greater load, but these advantages are insignificant when considering the difference in lethality between ABC weapons and conventional explosives. An aircraft can carry a load of explosives ten times as large as a TBM missile, but the lethality coefficient of chemical weapons, as we have said, is hundreds of times greater (and that of biological and nuclear weapons, thousands of times greater) than that of conventional weapons. Hence the need for larger and/or more accurately targeted payloads to be delivered – and thus aircraft to be used – is greatly diminished by the use of non-conventional weapons.

A further advantage of missiles compared to aircraft lies in the relatively low cost and basic technological level required to operate and maintain a missile system, compared to a latest-generation air force. The latter is based on 21st century technology and costs $70 million per aircraft (such as the F-15I supplied to Israel).

An Apparent Political Achievement at the Cost of a Strategic Failure

This factor is All-American. US considerations as a superpower during the Cold War era caused it to cultivate allies as strategic assets, while ignoring the arming of these countries with ABC weapons, and sometimes even encouraging them to do so. On the one hand, countries such as Pakistan, Syria and Iraq were numbered amongst the “countries encouraging terrorism”, with which military trade was definitely forbidden (as defined by Congress), but on the other hand, it was sufficient for the White House to desire good relations with them in order to make the decisions of Congress a dead letter.

An example of this was the process of producing the “Islamic Bomb” in Pakistan. Because Pakistan gave support to the Afghan insurgents in their war against the Soviet Army, Washington turned a blind eye to the wholesale contravention by Pakistan of the provisions of the Convention prohibiting proliferation of nuclear weapons. As a result, the Administration initiated the first and decisive stage in the nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It is reasonable to assume that if the Americans had violently opposed the Pakistanis at the beginning of the process, they would have cut it off in its infancy and signaled to the various Islamic dictatorships not to risk confrontation with a super power in a matter having a potential for nuclear catastrophe.

However, the exact opposite occurred, and Pakistan, with the overall passive support of the Americans, is currently the focus of nuclear arms escalation in its region and aids Iran’s nuclear efforts so escalating potential nuclear blackmail and/or confrontation in the Middle East, as well.

The case of Pakistan reoccurs to a greater extent in Iraq. This time, not only did the Americans ensure that the bi-annual report of the Atomic Energy Agency concerning open contravention by Iraq was rendered worthless, but the American Administration even financed from its own pocket a significant part of the nuclear weapons purchases of Saddam Hussein.7

Another example of the myopic perspective of the analysis of the Administration in Washington is the awarding of the status of “preferred trading nation” to China. Here also there is the “Global Consideration”, a relic of the Cold War era in the 1970s, when Nixon and Kissinger wished to drive a wedge between China and the USSR. The Chinese, who benefit from the Western technological cornucopia, translate it into development of military industries, mainly in the missile and nuclear fields. They receive the hard currency for purchasing this technology from the West from Middle Eastern countries, to whom they sell the finished product. Thus is created the vicious circle that feeds on Western technology, using Chinese application and Arab money.

An Apparent Economic Achievement at the Cost of a Strategic Failure

While the arming of Pakistan and Iraq arose from considerations of global strategy by the super powers, the calculations of Germany, Britain, France and other Western countries, all of whom are signatories to all the possible conventions prohibiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, are mainly motivated by greed. There is great temptation: the arming of the Middle East has been estimated to cost the huge sum of approximately a trillion dollars since 1973, i.e., about six times as much as the defense budget of a power such as Britain during that period. The military industries lobby is the strongest one in the West. In the final analysis, this is an industry in the forefront of technology and science, without which the development of complex materials, the new generation of super computers and the miniaturization of electronic systems, would not have taken place.

Towards the Point of No Return

The balance of terror between the powers during the period of the cold war generated a dialectic commonality of opposites. The contrast was ideological, but the commonality lay in the mutual desire for survival, anchored in the common ethos of the Judeo-Christian civilization, whose rationale was the hot line. Fortunately for mankind, the commonality was stronger than the contrast. Paradoxically, the weapons and the recognition of their lethality maintained world peace.

The situation in the Middle East is fundamentally different, both in its nature, i.e., in the critical mass of weapons of mass destruction possessed by Arab-Islamic regimes and in the operational field of short ranges and lack of sufficient warning. The arsenals, full of conventional and ABC weapons, produce a dialectic reversal of temptation/fear. The fear of a sudden attack produces the temptation for a pre-emptive strike. Israel and its enemies are an example of this. Israel’s exceptional vulnerability facing Arab countries will significantly increase in the event of abandoning its remaining strategic territorial assets in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan. The Arab temptation to wipe out, in one blow, the castrateJewish state in its impossible borders, will increase many times. As a result, the Israeli finger will tighten on the nuclear trigger. The Arabs are aware of this, and their readiness to strike first, in order to prevent an Israeli pre-emptive strike, will increase, and Israel will be aware of this...and so on.

The rate of arming with ABC weapons and their delivery systems in the Middle East leaves no room for doubt concerning what is going to happen in the coming decade. By 2005 (if not earlier), the CIA estimates, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and possibly Algeria will possess ballistic missiles capable of delivering bacteriological and chemical warheads, to a range exceeding 1,000 km. This means that a significant proportion of the inhabitants of southern Europe will be hostages of Islamic regimes motivated by the Jihad ethos. These are regimes for whom holding hostages, typically exploiting the distress of the weak and helpless, is a well tested method of achieving their aims. It is worth emphasizing, that the difference between actually kidnapping hostages and threatening a hostage population by remote control, is a technical one only.

Missile Defense – A Strategic Imperative

The various projects for defense against ballistic missiles are largely the brainchildren of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), initiated by President Reagan in 1983. The intention of the initiative was to provide the US with a “space shield” against the inter continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) of the USSR.

However, it quickly became apparent that the basic assumptions of the enormous project were not backed up by the technical-scientific capability of the 1980s, and the program slowed down. In the meantime, the USSR disintegrated, and the Cold War came to an end. (Some experts have suggested that this was largely due to this project of Reagan’s, which vastly accelerated the scientific and economic failure of the Soviets). After making tremendous technical-scientific efforts and spending $42 billion, the SDI program (popularly known as “Star Wars”) was put on a back burner.

However, it soon became apparent that the end of the Cold War was not necessarily “the end of history”, as characterized naively by Francis Fukuyama, but in fact the beginning of a “clash of civilizations”, as gloomily described by Samuel Huntington. Indeed, in 1990, a mere one year after the official disintegration of the USSR, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The threatening shadow of an Arab dictator, equipped with weapons of mass destruction and means of delivery (ballistic missiles having a range of about 600 km.), hung over a third of the total world oil reserves. The rain of missiles that fell on Israel and on Saudi Arabia in the winter of 1991 made it abundantly clear that the threat to world peace had significantly increased.

The second Gulf War and its conclusions formed the basis of Margaret Thatcher’s speech, on March 9, 1996, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s famous speech, at Fulton, Missouri, which by virtue of the ‘iron curtain’ concept helped lay the foundations for NATO. Mrs. Thatcher quoted American sources who stated: “Towards the end of the decade, we shall see 20 countries armed with ballistic missiles, nine with nuclear weapons, 10 with biological weapons and 30 with chemical weapons…when these missiles become operational in the Middle East and North Africa, all the capitals of Europe will be within their range.”

The former Prime Minister of Britain did not exaggerate. As previously stressed, three NATO capitals (Athens, Ankara and Rome) already lie within the range of missiles equipped with weapons of mass destruction. By 2005, much of Europe will be within the range of ABC weapons.

Israel and the US – The Strategic Risk Potential

At present, the US and Israel are the only two countries undertaking advanced R&D and planning of systems for active defense against theater ballistic missiles.8 This situation is surprising if one examines the ballistic risk potential of these two countries.

The strategic risk potential of the ballistic missile threat to various countries may be presented on a descending scale from 10 to 1. Israel, a minuscule country surrounded by enemies, lies at the top of the scale, at a value of 10. The US, the only superpower in the post-Cold War era, lies at the bottom of the scale.

The entire area of Israel lies within striking distance of Egyptian and Syrian Scud-C missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction. By next year, 1999, Israel will be in range of missiles launched from Iran,9 not a trivial matter, when considering it is a country that has openly and formally announced its intention to “totally destroy the Zionist entity”.10 Furthermore, such evaluation of the danger facing Israel is realistic even without mentioning Libya, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

The US, a super power located on the other side of the planet, lies at the bottom of the risk scale. According to research performed by the Pentagon, rogue states will not have the capability of hitting American territory before 2012 (on condition, of course, that the Russians or Chinese do not sell intercontinental missiles to North Korea, Iran or any Arab country). The shortest distance from North Korea to the most westerly of the Hawaii Islands is 7,500 km. According to the Pentagon findings, it will take the Koreans 15 years to develop a missile having this range. A hit by a surface to surface ballistic missile on the continental United States is not expected in the immediate future.

Therefore, the considerations for development of systems for defense against ballistic missiles are totally different for Israel and the US. In the case of Israel, there is an existential threat, to which an answer must be found in a very short time. However, for the US, its attempts to find an answer to the threat of surface to surface missiles in general, and those armed with weapons of mass destruction in particular, should not be viewed on a strategic survival basis, but merely as an answer to a tactical threat to its armed forces when deployed close to potential danger areas, such as the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean or the Far East.

All this refers to the short term. In the longer term, the overall perspective of the US as a super power obligates it to prepare an answer now to the escalatory tendencies of the threat of ballistic surface to surface missiles, particularly those armed with weapons of mass destruction.

The American timetable, according to which the systems will effectively be operational against ballistic missiles, in the middle or end of the first decade of the 21st century, or perhaps during the second decade, overlaps the time which predictions of escalation of the danger to the US itself suggest.

Based on the above assumptions, the Americans are developing a series of land- and sea-based systems, all of which are founded on the principle of multi-layer defense of point targets, such as army bases, emergency army stores, and other installations. The defense of the home front, in the style of the Israel Arrow project, is therefore an anomaly, a by-product of the active American defense system. It should not be regarded as a trend which, at a later stage, will become transformed into a defense arrangement for the civilian population of the US itself. This difference is critical, mainly when looked at from an economic angle.

Whereas the total expenditure on all the active defense systems of the US does not exceed a fraction of one percent of the total defense budget ($1.6 billion out of a defense budget of $250 billion), the cost for deploying the Arrow system may come to be a significant part of the Israeli defense expenditure. In this situation, a failure of the overall system cannot be of more than marginal importance in the case of the US. However, in the case of Israel, a failure will cause an existential threat to the Jewish state.

Ballistic Missile Defense Projects – Inventory

The total number of BMD projects is 10. Three of them are being carried out in cooperation with Israel, namely: the Arrow, Moav and THEL (Tactical High Energy Laser) projects. The 10 projects may be split into three groups, depending on the position of the interception of the attacking missile:

A. Endo-Atmospheric Interception, close to the target.

B. Exo-Atmospheric Interception, in mid trajectory.

C. Interception at the Launch Phase.11

A. Endo-Atmospheric Interception, close to the target.

  1. The Improved Hawk Belt: Containing 700 missiles, has been operational since 1995. Intended to intercept missiles at a height lower than 10 km., i.e., to defend point targets. This system has not been tested under battle conditions.

  2. The Patriot Belt (PAC2): This system contains over 2,000 missiles, has been operational since 1991, and was originally intended to intercept aircraft. It has been upgraded and is supposed to intercept missiles at a radius of 10 km. from the target. It should be remembered that the system failed in the second Gulf War. The number of Iraqi Scuds destroyed by Patriots was negligible.

  3. Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL): This project is intended to destroy rockets, such as the Katyusha, at short ranges. It is expected to be deployed in 2000.

  4. The Patriot Belt (PAC3): This comprises 1,200 Patriot PAC3 missiles with a defense radius of up to 40 km. If nothing goes wrong during the missile testing schedule, the system should become operational in 1999.

  5. Navy Lower Tier Inner Belt: This is supposed to defend Naval installations and ports. The system will incorporate 1,500 missiles manufactured by Raytheon/Hughes and is currently in the R&D stage. Its radius of defense lies between 50 and 100 km. The planned set up and deployment date is 2006.

B. Interception in Mid-Trajectory

  1. Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD): This Army project, based on 1,200 missiles, is intended to intercept the attacking missile between altitudes of 40 km. and 100 to 200 km. above the atmosphere, whose height for the purpose of ballistic calculations, is approximately 100 km.

    This ambitious project, which is planned to be operational in 2006, encountered many difficulties from the very beginning. It is already apparent that this date is unattainable. For instance, the prototype of the THAAD components that was planned for 2000 has already been delayed by at least two years. The project has so far generated a backlog of five years and all five test interceptions have failed. The situation has been reached where, after the last failure, voices have been heard in Congress calling for cancellation of the entire project.

  2. The Aegis Project: The Navy upper tier. The date for operational deployment has not yet been fixed, but the fact that the defense radius is expected to be greater than that of the THAAD makes it certain to be about 2010. This Navy project is sometimes referred to as Aegis, since 22 cruisers of the Aegis class are planned to carry the launchers of the interceptor missiles.

    The clear advantage of the Aegis project is its ability to approach the launching sites and get close enough to intercept the attacking missile even in the launch phase. Thus, for example, the Aegis cruiser can anchor outside the territorial limits of North Korea and intercept missiles launched against Japan. The decisive naval superiority of the US compared with all possible opponents expected in the near future awards this program a great advantage. Since the Japanese have destroyers of this type, Tokyo is interested in the project.

  3. The Israeli Arrow Project: The Arrow project is a result of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Israel and the US in 1986. An estimated timetable has been fixed for the Arrow, a planned three-stage missile. The accumulated backlog compared to the original plan is currently three years.

    Already, in the first stage, the Arrow succeeded in intercepting an attacking missile. In the second stage of the project, the two-stage Arrow succeeded in two tests, on August 20, 1996 and March 11, 1997. As a result of these successes, it may be stated with certainty, that the Arrow is the most advanced project of its type in the world. It is nearly ten years in advance of all the previously mentioned projects in the US. The Arrow Deployability Program (ADP) has fixed 2001 as the target date for deploying all the elements of the Arrow system: the launcher, the fire control radar, the firing control center, the launch control center and the other systems.

    The range of the Arrow is kept secret. In unclassified publications it is usual to refer to the Arrow as an endo-atmospheric missile, with a maximum interception altitude of 90 km. In other words, the missile fills the gap between the ranges of the Patriot PAC-3 and the THAAD.12 

C. Boost Phase Intercept (BPI):

Two additional projects, which are fundamentally different in their strategic concept, are those for destroying an attacking missile during launching. The outstanding advantage of BPI is that of destroying the missile over enemy territory, which has a decisive deterrent effect when considering surface to surface missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, the BPI is faced with a problem to which no satisfactory solution has yet been found: getting the platforms carrying the interception devices close to their targets. This fact of proximity to the enemy, in addition to the problem that the platforms must remain on location for a long time, makes their discovery and destruction much easier.

  1. The Airborne Laser (ABL): The ABL is a defense system against theater ballistic missiles (TBM) which attacks missiles during the boost phase, i.e., during the most vulnerable stage of the missiles’ trajectory. The program incorporates a multi-megawatt chemical laser (based on gas shielding), installed in a Boeing 747 aircraft. The range of the laser is planned to reach hundreds of kilometers, almost certainly 400 km. The ABL is stated to have three great advantages: speed, accuracy and cost.

    Since the laser beam travels at the speed of light, the missile is destroyed in real time, a critical element in a battle control system. It is sufficient for the beam to hit an area of 1 cm.
    2 in the body of the missile in order to cause it irreversible damage and destroy it.

    The project is supposed to be particularly cost effective. The Arrow and THAAD missiles are projects with a unit cost of the order of well over $1 million. When taking into account the theoretical leakage rate of the attacking missile, at least 1.2 defending missiles must be launched against each attacking missile. In other words, the killing cost approaches $2 million. In contrast to this high cost, the calculations for the ABL project take into account a salvo of 40 pulses of the beam costing $1,000 per pulse. If the destruction rate reaches 100%, this means destroying a missile costing more than $250,000 (Scud-C, for example) at a cost of $1,000, i.e., a ratio of: 250:1. In light of these amazing data, when calculating cost effectiveness, the ABL project is the cheapest one on the drawing board.

    The US government allocated, in November 1996, $1.1 billion to the ABL program. The first projected test of destroying a missile in the boost phase is planned for the first decade of the 21st century.

  2. Israeli Boost Intercept System (IBIS): This Israeli project is designed to destroy the missile during the boost phase using a missile launched from a MRPV cruising at a height of a of a few tens of kilometers above the target. The project is being developed mainly by RAFAEL (the Israeli Armament Development Authority) and is in the final stages of development of the interceptor missile. Its budget is a fraction of that of the ABL. However, it is considerably in advance of the American project.14


Israel – The Existential Threat

For more than 30 years, parts of Israel have lain in range of simple, cheap but efficient ballistic missiles. For 10 years it has lain in the range of Scud-B missiles. At the present moment, all parts of Israel, including the greater Tel Aviv area, which contains 70% of the Jewish population of Israel and the same percentage of its manufacturing capacity, lie in the range of Scud-C missiles. The majority of these missiles, possessed by Syria and Egypt, are armed, or will be in the near future, with weapons of mass destruction. The range of the Scud is 550 km. and with minor improvements it reaches 600 km. This enables Egypt to launch it from the western desert and Syria to do so from the Iraqi border.

Israel, or, rather, the Dan metropolitan area, is, to a large extent, a city, state, a megalopolis. It follows that all of Israel represents one soft target as compared to about 50 soft targets in the Arab world and in Iran. A lethal hit on this target means the effective annihilation of the Jewish state.

Since surface-to-surface missiles are basically terror weapons against the civilian population, dispatched against towns with the intention of sowing destruction and causing panic, the hitting accuracy, Circular Error Probable (CEP) is of secondary importance, particularly in the case of weapons of mass destruction. This fact is of paramount importance, since it frees the enemy of the need to make expensive technological investments to reduce the CEP. Seventy percent of the total Jewish population of the State of Israel lives in the Dan metropolitan area, and this also means a similar percentage of the reserve troops. A significant disruption of means of transportation on the one hand and the worry of the reserve troops concerning the fate of their families on the other hand, would be likely seriously to affect the mobilization and morale of the reserve troops. Since the reserves form two thirds of the combat echelon of the IDF, the very survival of Israel is dependent on their reaching the front on time.

The 39 Iraqi missiles that fell on Israel during the winter of 1991 were only a light shower compared to what is likely to occur during the opening hours of a future war. However, even this “shower” sowed unprecedented panic and destruction in Israel, greater than that occurring in all its previous wars. Although the number of fatalities (two) was fundamentally insignificant, the mass flight from the cities and paralysis of the economy for more than two weeks indicate the dangerous extent of the disruption and dislocation which could be caused by a yet more concerted attack on the home front.15

It is a working assumption among military experts that the next war will start with a salvo of missiles on the greater Tel Aviv area. In this case, the enemy will have at its disposal a potential of not tens but hundreds of missiles, a significant number of which will be armed with weapons of mass destruction.

For this reason (and the above list is only partial), Israel cannot take the risk of absorbing a rain of missiles at the opening stage of a future war. Clearly enough, it must neutralize this stage, which threatens its very existence. It should therefore be superfluous to state that the neutralization of the surface to surface missile threat is the top strategic priority of the State of Israel.


Interception of Missiles while in Flight – Choice by Elimination

Israel has several alternatives:

  1. Enforcement of the conventions prohibiting ABC missiles and launchers.

  2. A pre-emptive strike to destroy the missile launchers before hostilities commence.

  3. A pre-emptive war, such as the Six Day War.

  4. Nuclear deterrence.

  5. The peace process.

  6. Destruction of the missiles in flight, at various stages of their trajectory.

  7. A combination of these alternatives.

  1. Enforcement of the conventions prohibiting ABC missiles and launchers:

It is not an exaggeration to say that all the international conventions prohibiting proliferation of ABC weapons and their launchers are a dead letter. Even more significantly, a short examination of the various situations shows that, paradoxically, the conventions merely escalate proliferation.

In 1972, the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) was signed. In 1982, the UN General Assembly decided to prohibit use of chemical weapons.16 Since these dates, the rate of production of biological and chemical weapons has greatly increased in three major Arab countries. Iraq, Libya and Syria are the largest manufacturers of biological and chemical weapons in the world, after Russia and the US, and Egypt is not far behind.

In 1987, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) came into force. This is intended to “restrict the proliferation of medium range ballistic missiles”. This means “ballistic missiles capable of carrying a load of 500 kgs. to a minimum range of 300 km., and the technologies needed for their development and manufacture”.17

In fact, in the 10 years since that time, the proliferation of ballistic missiles in the Middle East has escalated dizzily. Within a short time, the ballistic missile has become the major feature of the arms race in the region: the Saudi Arabian purchase of Chinese missiles; the upgrading of the Iraqi Scud-B (Al Husayn); manufacture of Scud-C; cooperation in the financing of manufacture of the Korean No-Dong with a range of 1,100 km.; and the two-stage Taepo-Dong (planned to be operational in 2005), with an expected range of 4,000 to 6,000 km., which is arousing interest in these important Arab countries.

Efficient enforcement of the international conventions prohibiting manufacture and use of weapons of mass destruction has therefore little chance of success, to say the least. Obviously, if the US, the sole super power, and NATO, the decisive source of power in the world today, cannot, or will not, enforce the various conventions, Israel will certainly not be able to do so.

There has been a similar failure to prohibit Western companies selling technologies, including dual purpose technologies, usable for manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, to Arab countries and to Iran. The volume of sales to the Arab world (mainly Iraq, Libya, Syria, Egypt and Algeria) by private Western companies was estimated in 1991 to approach the tremendous sum of $300 billion.18 The fact that Germany (through companies, all of whom bear names well known from the Nazi era) leads the volume of sales, bestows on the process a somewhat macabre aspect.

To this trend of Western greed should be added the large volume of sales of the former Soviet bloc. The American failure to prevent Yeltsin’s Russia supplying nuclear technology and medium range missiles to Iran is evidence of the helplessness of a power, let alone a small country totally lacking strategic allies, such as Israel, to be effective in the matter.

  1. A pre-emptive strike to destroy the missile launchers before the commencement of hostilities:

The location and destruction of missile launchers, mainly before launching, is a very difficult proposition. It is worthwhile remembering the abject failure of the coalition air forces during the Gulf War to destroy even a single launcher of the Al Husayn missiles. This was with open skies, at negligible range, with excellent intelligence and without any opposing air defense; in other words, under perfect conditions.

In order to attain the conditions of the Coalition Air Forces in the second Gulf War, Israel would initially have to destroy the enemy air forces and deploy [thereafter] in enemy territory a comprehensive air force set-up in order to overcome the dense anti-aircraft defense, a situation clearly almost impossible to obtain. However, even were it possible, the likelihood of destruction of the targets is extremely slight, in the light of the experience acquired in the Gulf War.

If they intend even to get near doing so, the aircraft of the Israeli Air Force will have to fly at maximum operational range and penetrate the anti aircraft defense screen, which is amongst the most dense in the world. This means, aerial re-fueling, electronic blocking, accurate, smart weapons, and much besides. Israel will have to deploy intelligence at various levels, including human intelligence, to verify the location of every launcher at a given time (as in the case of total reliance on human intelligence in World War II against the mobile V-2 launchers). All this will be in order to feed, in real time, thesensors of the satellites and other essential aircraft for immediate attack, before the enemy gets organized for a missile attack.

As already asserted, the coalition air forces did not succeed during the Gulf War in destroying even one missile launcher. However, Israel will be faced with a much greater task than that of the coalition air forces in the winter of 1991. It will not be sufficient for Israel to hit only some of the launchers, since we are talking about launchers, some of which, at least, are equipped with missiles bearing warheads armed with weapons of mass destruction. Such a situation obligates location and destruction of all the launchers, without exception. This is apparently an impossible situation, with today’s technological data, or that of the perceivable future.

The assumption that the Israeli Air Force will succeed in circumstances infinitely more difficult than those in which the air forces of the US and Britain failed, in ideal attack conditions, implies a large degree of arrogance, to say the least.

  1. A Pre-emptive war, such as the Six Day War:

Because of the structural difficulties of alternatives 1 and 2, the question of a pre-emptive war arises, such as was the Six Day War. In other words, physical conquest of enemy territory using conventional means in order to destroy the sources of danger.

Apparently, the objective conditions for a pre-emptive war exist today to a greater degree than they did on the eve of the Six Day War. Israel’s strategic risk potential is much greater than it was on June 4, 1967, both from worsening of the military balance and because of the deployment of ballistic missiles and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This is the case both for Israel’s neighbors, Syria and Egypt and those lying in the “second belt”, Libya and Iraq. The addition of Iran, which did not participate in 1967, is also significant.

Against this background, Israel is discarding its weapons. In the last 25 years, the defense budget (in dollar terms) has been reduced by 50%. In the last decade only, (1987-1997), the weighting of the defense budget in relation to the GDP has fallen from 17% to 9%.19

Under the pretense of the peace process, Israel is also discarding its strategic assets, those assets, the lack of which were, ironically, the cause of the pre-emptive war of June 1967. Initially, Israel retreated from Sinai, and is now about to retreat from the remaining territorial assets: the hills of Judea and Samaria, Gaza and the Golan Heights. This is taking place in the reality of the year 2000, a reality which includes a tremendous increase in the firepower, range and accuracy of the weapons owned by the Arab countries.

A pre-emptive war, if successful, would cut off, in their infancy, those developments which are so potentially disastrous for Israel. However, the self-same processes and tendencies which brought Israel to its present state, and primarily the belief that the political process which began in Oslo is really a “peace process”, are those which prevent it from using the alternative of a pre-emptive war like that of the Six Day War.

In order to initiate a pre-emptive war, with all the risks, both political and military, associated with such an extreme step, Israel requires total national consensus such as that obtained on the eve of the Six Day War. However, it may not be assumed that the Arab countries will make the same mistake of a public declaration of war, concentration of armies, warlike drumming and explicit declarations in the mass media of their intention to destroy Israel. Consequently, it is unreasonable to assume that the conditions will be produced in Israel, in the near future that would permit starting a pre-emptive war.

  1. Nuclear deterrence:

The logistic principle of nuclear deterrence assumes that always, in all cases, the attacked country has second strike retaliatory capability, which will enable it to cause destruction to the attacker of at least similar magnitude to that caused to itself in the first nuclear strike.

Nuclear deterrence is therefore based on the balance of terror, i.e., mutual assured destruction. This assumes that the principle of human survival is stronger than that of the death wish or the desire for collective suicide. Consequently, nuclear deterrence, rather than being purely a military doctrine, is more a philosophical journey in undependable morality.

Based on this assumption, neither of the two sides in the Cold War ceased to arm with conventional weapons and to preserve the strategic balance, calculating in various ways, ranging from territorial assets and massed armor to fleets of strategic bombers.

This mutuality in the situation is totally lacking in the military balance in the Middle East. The ratio of forces between Israel and its enemies is 1:500 in land area, 1:60 in population and at least 1:10 in size of armies.

At one stage Israel enjoyed superiority in nuclear potential, but this is likely to disappear within a few years, with the nuclearization of the Middle East. In such a situation, if Israel abandons the conventional balance in the classical sense, including strategic territorial assets, it will not have the capability of nuclear deterrence based on mutual assured destruction (in contrast with the situation obtaining between the powers during the Cold War), because of the exceptional vulnerability of the Jewish state, which represents a single soft target compared to the 50 or more soft targets of the enemy. In such a ratio, there is no certainty that after a first strike which destroys Israel, it will be capable of retaliating to the same extent against the enemy, and thus producing the classic deterrence which would prevent the first nuclear strike.

On the other hand, a pre-emptive strike by Israel in the case of a threat to its existence would be followed by a second strike that would certainly cause the destruction of the Jewish state. Since it is highly improbable that an Israeli Prime Minister would order collective suicide, it may be stated, with total certainty, that with the nuclearization of the Middle East (in the form of the Pakistani nuclear umbrella, or the acquisition of nuclear potential by Iran and Iraq), Israel will no longer have nuclear deterrence in its accepted meaning. Since the other side is well aware of Israel’s helplessness in this sphere, not only will Israel’s nuclear potential have no value, but it will paradoxically also act as a catalyst for strategic abuse by the Arabs on Israel.

Strategic abuse, the process to which Israel has been subjected since the Madrid agreements, and even more since Oslo, will accelerate the loss of strategic assets and the return of Israel to the 1949 frontiers, or close to them. In such a situation, any concession, such as an autonomous region for the Arabs of the Galilee, handing over parts of the Negev to Egypt, or even a return to the partition boundaries,20 would be preferable to national suicide in a nuclear holocaust.

  1. The peace process:

That which is referred to as the “peace process” is a result of existential distress encountered by Israel after four decades of war. The elements of “peace” are many and varied. They include battle fatigue and a rapid rise in the standard of living, which produces the image of the well-fed Israeli avoiding reserve army service. “Plenty breeds cowards”, in the words of Shakespeare. The responsibility lies with the erosion of values of self-sacrifice and resilience not to mention the well-known Jewish ability for self-deception. These all find expression in the mantra of “territories for peace”. According to the Orwellian concept, a tiny democracy in an ocean of Arab dictatorships must give the only thing it is lacking – territory, while the Arabs, who have killed, in wars between one another, more than three million people in the last three decades, must give what they do not have – peace.

This grotesque situation, which is a chilling repeat of the Czechoslovakia affair of 1938-9, is now taking place before our very eyes. It is based on the Israeli admission of its inability to defeat the enemy in the coming war. The late Yitzhak Rabin, who well understood the increasingly disadvantageous gap in the military balance between the IDF and the Arab world, and in particular in the field of unconventional weapons, expressed this more than once.

The first victim to be sacrificed on the altar of peace is the abandonment of the military doctrine of the IDF, well established in three of its wars, at least up to the Six Day War: the doctrine of offensive action, based on transferring the war to the territory of the enemy. This was replaced by the doctrine of “active defense”, based on “absorption” and an attempt to fight the enemy on Israel’s territory. Since the focus of the strategic threat, as demonstrated by the experience of the shower of Scuds in the winter of 1991, is a surface to surface attack on the home front, it was decided to establish a system of interceptor missiles to destroy the attacking missiles before they reached the target.


Destruction of missiles in mid-trajectory – the system failure

To what may missile interception, using missiles, be compared? It is like a duel between two gunmen, each of whom is bound by his own set of rules. Gunman “A” may shoot at all parts of the other’s body (including the head and heart), while Gunman “B” must hit the bullet leaving his opponent’s gun.

Gunman “B” is therefore in mortal danger, while Gunman “A” is not endangered at all. Gunman “A” can use a simple, cheap lead bullet, but Gunman “B” must employ an expensive gun and bullets, possessing the most sophisticated technology. Gunman “A” may fire whenever he wishes, but Gunman “B” must be constantly on the alert.

From the point of view of Gunman “A”, this situation presents a tremendous temptation to attack first. Moreover, it is reasonable to assume that following the action of Gunman “A”, other bad guys in the neighborhood will look for an easy, convenient and safe way to give vent to their violent feelings and exploit the sudden end of Gunman “B”.

Gunman “B” is therefore a hybrid of a creative intellectual and a moral person. However, basically, the impotence that he displays (known as loss of deterrent ability), contributes to escalation of the arms race.

This apparently absurd schematic description implies a series of system failures which combine to produce a structural failure at the strategic level of ballistic missile defense. A partial list follows.

The Economic Failure

The cost of a Patriot PAC-2 missile is $1.1 million, at 1991 prices. At this stage, the Patriot is helpless against a Scud, but even if it were to succeed in intercepting it, a situation would be produced where a missile costing $1.1 million would destroy a heap of flying junk costing $250,000. Because of the theoretical leakage rate, 1.2 Patriot missiles are needed to destroy a single Scud. It therefore follows that the kill ratio – in terms of cost – would be 1:5.28 in the Scud’s favor. This nonsensical ratio stands out even more when we examine the performance of the Patriot when fulfilling its original mission: interception of fighter aircraft. The interception of aircraft costing tens of millions of dollars (an F-15, for example, costs $70 million) shifts the kill ratio to 1:63 in the Patriot’s favor. Furthermore, while a Scud can carry a maximum load of 500 kgs. of high explosives, an F-15 can carry 5,000 kgs. of smart bombs of all types.

In addition, the limited range of the Patriot (10 to 40 km., in the case of the PAC-3) makes it suitable for defending point targets. This means that in the case of a warhead armed with weapons of mass destruction, the Patriot is of no value. For this purpose, missiles attacking missiles at the stage of entering the atmosphere, or outside it, i.e., 70 km. and greater are required. Examples of such missiles are the Israeli Arrow and the American THAAD, which are much more expensive than the Patriot. It follows that the kill ratio will be even higher. However, even a kill ratio of 1:5.28 is only the beginning of the story.

In practice, the ratio is likely to be much greater, in favor of the attacking missile, since the attacking missile has a wide range of deceptive actions for deceiving the interceptor missile. The emission of deceptive bodies, such as metallic fluff or metal coated balloons in the exo-atmosphere, will cause the interceptor missile to home onto tens of flying bodies, having radar signatures identical to that of the warhead. A similar effect can be obtained in the endo-atmosphere by emitting tens of sub munitions, which will not only deceive the interceptor missile but also significantly increase the ultimate destruction on the ground.21

The stealth technology decreases the radar signature of the warhead to a minimum that will increase the difficulty of detecting it, at least during the boost phase and during the stage when the missile is cruising outside the atmosphere. The material coating the warhead is burnt off during the endo-atmospheric stage, but the time in which to detect it will be reduced to less than the minimum required. As a result, a situation may be produced where in order to intercept a single Scud, a significant number of Arrow or similar missiles will be required. Since interception of the attacking missile obligates a success rate of 100%, since the missile may be carrying weapons of mass destruction, the kill ratio will reach unacceptable dimensions on the basis of cost effectiveness. For instance, to be equipped with 1,000 Scud-C missiles or their derivatives would cost at most $500 million, an amount equal to the daily oil production of Saudi Arabia. To seal hermetically the skies of Israel against the danger of those 1,000 missiles, i.e., to intercept them, would cost a sum that might come to half Israel’s defense budget. Since, according to foreign sources, by the end of the present decade, the Arab countries threatening Israel will possess 2,000 missiles, Israel would be forced, at least in theory, to equip itself with a number of Arrow missiles that would cost more than the total annual defense budget, a possibility which is completely out of the question.

It is unnecessary to point out that this situation is absurd from the economic aspect. In fact, the equipment program for the Arrow does not include more than a few hundred units.22 In other words, even if the Arrow were totally to justify its developers’ hopes (a possibility that is actually unreasonable even in theory), it would provide only a partial answer to the ballistic threat. At best, it would be able to face up to the first series of salvos at the beginning of the war.

The economic aspect of the Israeli case is exceptional in its scale. This is particularly true if it is compared to the attitude of the US to the subject of defense against theater ballistic missiles, and the resultant spending.

From the unclassified data published by the Ballistic Missiles Defense Organization (BMDO), by 2003 the estimated costs of development and deployment of US systems of defense against ballistic missiles will reach $28 billion. This sum represents 11.2% of the annual US defense budget, or 1.6% of the total cumulative defense budgets in the period of the seven years 1997 to 2003. In contrast, the Arrow project alone, in the stage of set-up and deployment, which represents the major part (but not all) of the “Homa” project, has been estimated by independent sources, at $5 billion at least. This is about 60% of the total Israeli defense budget 1998. The supporters of the Arrow project, i.e., Israel Aircraft Industries, speak of a much lower sum, but experience teaches that estimates given by interested parties should be treated with suspicion. Even if their estimates are correct, and the expected cost will not exceed $2.5 billion, the principle remains valid vis-a-vis the US. This difference, of more than 1,000% relative to the defense budgets of the two countries, is a critical difference from Israel’s point of view. For even if the Americans decide, for any reason, to cancel the entire project and to go over to totally different project, the effect on defense costs would be marginal. This would not be the case for Israel. The large scale of the Arrow project, compared to the total defense costs, blocks every other option. If so, if and when it will become apparent, for any reason, that the project has failed and cannot provide an answer to the nature of the threat, Israel will find itself in a well nigh hopeless situation.

One of the claims of the supporters of the Arrow is that the cost of the project should not be measured in terms of a percentage of the defense budget, but relative to the amount of destruction that it is supposed to prevent. This claim, even if it contains an element of logic in the case of an attack with conventional warheads, is clearly erroneous in the case of weapons of mass destruction. Because of Israel’s peculiar situation, in which a fatal hit on one soft target – the greater Tel Aviv area – can be considered as the destruction of the State of Israel, any circumstance in which there is not hermetic sealing of the country’s skies is a strategic failure.

The Failure of Deterrence

The principle of deterrence is based on cost effectiveness. If the aggressor knows that the price he will be forced to pay for his aggression will be greater than the benefit he draws from it, i.e., the damage caused to him will be greater than that he causes the enemy, the motivation for aggression will be eliminated. This principle, on which the rationale is based, is supposed to guide military thinking, and does not always work in practice. For instance, Hitler’s war in the last two years of World War II was lacking a rational basis. The damage caused to Germany was greater by far than that caused to the Allies by Germany. In this sense, the considerations of the Middle East are not consistent with the accepted rationale of Western thinking. Sadat’s famous declaration on the eve of the Yom Kippur War that he would be prepared to pay with the lives of a million (or two million, according to another version) soldiers “to wipe out the disgrace of the defeat in the 1967 war”, reveals more about the roots of Arab hostility towards the Jewish state than a cold analysis of the principle of deterrence, based on cost effectiveness.

The readiness to pay an unreasonable price, in terms of Western rationale, to achieve the destruction of Israel, is a permanent element. It follows from this, that the more the price is reduced, the greater the motivation will be. The “Homa” project, or any similar one which is planned to intercept the missile in the final stage of its ballistic trajectory without causing damage to the attacker, gives the Arab countries a tempting double reason to strengthen their surface to surface ballistic missiles arrangements. It need hardly be said that this principle is even more relevant in the case of weapons of mass destruction.

The Conceptual Failure

A weapons system must be a valid answer, in accordance with the nature of the threat. Does the defense against ballistic missiles, or what is called in somewhat misleading semantics, “active defense”, provide a valid answer to the threat of theater ballistic missiles that we know? The answer, as of now, is emphatically no. As surprising as it may seem, the helplessness of the civilian population in Tel Aviv under the shower of Scuds in 1991 was no different from the helplessness of the population of London under a rain of the same missiles in 1944. Over the period of 47 years that have elapsed since then, science has developed hugely. Ideas that were not even of the level of science fiction during the 1940s, are now familiar to a child in primary school. However, the fact remains: no change has occurred regarding defense against the threat from simple ballistic missiles, based on technology of the 1940s (actually, of the 1930s), which are merely “flying heaps of junk”, as General Schwarzkopf so colorfully described them. At least, no significant change, to be more precise.

The example used illustratively above, about the two gunmen, presents in an absurd manner the disproportionate relationship between the attacker and the attacked. However, we should go one step further and examine the reality existing after the tremendous effort to develop technologies for destroying an attacking ballistic missile achieves its aim, and the Arrow, the THAAD or the laser beam of the ABL has indeed become able to destroy the Scud during the boost phase, in mid trajectory or close to its target.

As mentioned above, there exists a wide technical-scientific gap between the attacking missile and the defending one. This means that while the attacking missile is built using simple technologies, which are cheap and easily available, with the possibility of making changes with maximum speed and efficiency, the defense system must meet the challenge by making a technical-scientific break-through demanding great amounts of time and money. In the following, a few simple examples are given.23

The BPI Stage

As mentioned above, destroying the attacking missile during the launching stage solves most of the structural failures of missiles such as the Arrow and the THAAD. However, the central problem of the UPV, as in the Israeli IBIS project, or of the Boeing 747, as in the American ABL project, that they are forced to circle close to the target for extended periods of time, involves an entire system of no less serious failures. Detection and interception of the UAV or of the Boeing 747 do not require technologies other than those found in every modern air force. On the other hand, the proliferation of these failures requires, for their solutions to be found, the allocation of resources, i.e., time and money, which in turn raise doubts as to the feasibility of the entire project.

Sending a high energy laser beam to an estimated range of 400 km., in order to destroy a missile of the Al Husayn type, is still an operation bordering on science fiction, and is currently in the stage of R&D. Prototype testing is expected only in 2001. The energy produced by the beam when it contacts the missile is supposed to heat a small area of the skin to a critical temperature, following which the internal pressure in the missile will tear the skin and cause the missile to disintegrate. A calculation of the beam energy refers to the known thickness of the skin of the Al Husayn missile, which is 1 mm. In order to produce a beam which will destroy a missile having a skin 2 mm. thick, a quantum jump is required in the technical-scientific capability of producing the laser beam. It is obvious enough that to change the thickness of the skin of the Scud-C from 1 mm. to 2 mm. does not require any innovative technology. The additional weight will cause reduction of the weight of the warhead, but this is of only secondary importance, in the case of a warhead armed with weapons of mass destruction.

Another example is the question of the amount of energy absorbed by the missile from the laser beam. By coating the missile skin with reflective materials, the effectiveness of the energy of the laser beam may be reduced by 90%. The technology for this is simple, cheap and easily available. On the other hand, an increase of 900% in the quantity of energy of the laser beam sent to a range of 400 km. requires futuristic technology bordering on a conceptual revolution in the ABL project.

The Mid-Trajectory Stage

Exo-atmospheric interception using a missile such as the THAAD will encounter an impassable (at the moment) obstacle of dummy targets. In the region close to empty space above the atmosphere, every body travels at the same speed and in the same ballistic trajectory, independent of its weight. The warhead can emit, in mid trajectory, a series of dummy targets, such as metal coated balloons in the shape of a warhead. At this stage of research there is no way of knowing which of the targets is the real warhead. It need hardly be said that there is no possibility of intercepting all the targets, since it would be nonsensical to launch a missile loaded with 21st century technology, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, in order to explode a balloon in space.

Another method of disguising the warhead is to use stealth technology. The stealth principle is based on maximum reduction of the radar signature. This technology is very complex in the case of the B2 bomber, which has a complex structure incorporating angles, spaces and large smooth surfaces which have high radar reflective properties. In contrast to this complexity, the simple cone of the warhead is an ideal subject for stealth technology, which reduces it below the maximum resolution of existing radar. Stealth technologies are easily available, while significant improvement in radar resolution will require a breakthrough on the technological frontier. It is all too obvious that the gap between the two may cause the deaths of thousands (if not millions) of people.24

Two additional alternatives at the attacker’s disposal are exploitations of the basic laws of ballistics. The trajectory of the attacking missile can be heightened and flattened (compared to the optimal trajectory which achieves maximum distance for minimum energy). In the case of medium range missiles (such as the Scud-C), the attacking missile will travel (for part of the time) below the minimum effective height which permits the interceptor missile to destroy it.

A higher trajectory, in contrast, will permit the attacking missile to enter the atmosphere at a sharper angle and at higher speed. This combination of the two parameters will cause great difficulties for the defense system, since they increase the time required for warning the detection radar and thus make it more difficult for the battle control system to operate successfully, in a time measured in fractions of a second.

The Stage of Approaching the Target

After fooling the defense system in space, the attacking missile has entered the atmosphere. At a height of about 100 km., the balloons remain a long distance behind and the missile is traveling at a velocity of 5 km./s towards the target. Can it now be intercepted more easily?

At this stage the attacking missile has the option of launching submunitions, using simple technology. According to the basic laws of ballistics, the submunitions (some tens of bomblets weighing a few kilograms) will continue to travel in the ballistic trajectory of the warhead. In this situation, the destruction of the warhead will not help very much, if at all, since fundamentally it is possible to arm only the sub munitions, with the warhead serving as a transport container. Not only are ten submunitions loaded with 3 kgs. anthrax spores each more effective than one warhead, but in practice they cannot be hit using existing technologies of interceptor missiles.25

The three tactical failures described above produce, when combined, a structural strategic failure of the entire system. Firstly, because history teaches that the development of weapons, from the beginning of time, advances according to the classical principle of “development of attacking weapons against defense systems, and vice versa”.

Secondly, because in the case discussed, decisive superiority clearly lies with the attacker, and not with the defender. This is because the developers of defense systems have to struggle with the technological frontier – a very slow and expensive process – while the aggressor has at his disposal simple, cheap and readily available technology. It is only logical that the structural failure will increase.

It is reasonable to assume that all of what has been said above is well known to the other side and that the enemy has drawn the appropriate conclusions and has sought to put them into practice where necessary and feasible. It is strange, therefore, but very likely, that when the Arrow (or the THAAD system) will finally become operational, the developers will discover that they have a system which does not provide an answer to the weapons possessed by the attacker. It is thus paradoxical that not only does the development of systems like the Arrow and others not contribute to defense against theater ballistic missiles, but, on the contrary, because of their structural strategic failure, they act as a powerful catalyst in the escalation of the arms race. The data speaks for itself.


In conclusion, it should be pointed out that in the year 2000, neither Israel nor the US will possess operational systems for intercepting ballistic missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction. This fact is of completely marginal importance in the American case, but may be critical for Israel.

It is reasonable to assume that at the moment of truth, the world will take care of itself. The gap in strategic capability between the US and its NATO allies and between any possible combination of countries in the Middle East is unbridgeable in the foreseeable future. The countries of the coalition went to war against Saddam Hussein not because of the Iraqi threat to their populations but because of the possibility of an increase in oil prices as a result of the loss of Kuwait.

If the strategic threat potential to the US and its allies were to reach only a negligible percentage of that hovering over Israel, Washington would stop playing expensive games with the development of a system of defense against ballistic missiles and would eliminate the danger in its initial stages using the tried methods it possesses. If, in order to minimize the damage, there would be a need to use nuclear weapons, as in the case of Hiroshima, the US would not hesitate to do so.

The Israeli story is a totally different one, as we have shown. In practice, none of the alternatives available to the US and its allies, is possessed by the leaders of the Jewish state.

What, however, should Israel do?

Israel should wake up from its illusions about the “peace process”. The only “peace” in the Middle East takes place in the virtual reality created by the Jews in their minds. In reality, the region is undergoing escalation of both the conventional and unconventional arms races. This means that it is essential to stop the retreat from the few territorial assets still in Israel’s possession after abandoning Sinai, i.e., the Judean and Samarian Hills and the Golan Heights.

In order to stand up to the international and internal pressure that would follow the halting of the peace process, Israel needs a faithful and powerful ally. For this purpose, Israel must deepen the cooperation with the Congress in Washington, which, in contrast to the White House and the State Department, is able to recognize the threatening trends in the Middle East. After the disintegration of the USSR, the Congress is the most important focus of power in the world. Fortunately, Israel enjoys a large measure of understanding and sympathy amongst members of Congress. However, not necessarily for long.

At the same time, defense expenditure should be increased, as a function of the level of the threat, and should be linked to the GDP. If this were to happen, Israel would possess sufficient means to present a valid answer to the threat of war, even if the “Homa” project, which produces a false feeling of security in the public, were to fail.

The ballistic threat in the immediate region, and in more distant areas, generates a common interest amongst the threatened countries. India and Turkey are potential allies of Israel. Strengthening the strategic links between these three countries is likely to confound the disastrous trend towards Moslem hegemony in the respective regions.

It is possible to add further points. However, the four steps suggested above are sufficient to change fundamentally the defeatist image that Israel has projected since the Camp David agreements, the lack of an answer to the missile attack in the winter of 1991, the Madrid conference and the Oslo Accords.



In a TV interview, Granada: The World in Action, April 2, 1991.


See Yossef Bodansky’s article, “The Challenge of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Myth and Reality”, Nativ, No. 2, 1998.


In the case of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet restraint was even greater than that of the West, since not a single ally of Moscow was equipped with nuclear weapons.


See Shawn Pine, “Egypt’s True Defense Expenditures: 2.7 or 14 Billion Dollars?”, Ariel Center for Policy Research Policy Paper No. 6, as well as Nativ, No. 5, 1997.


The great discrepancy between the data results from many variables such as: weather, strength and direction of the wind, extent of the protection of the civilian population, use of different gases at the same time, etc.


This is based on the British experience of firing of V-1 and V-2 missiles in 1944.


By giving a national guarantee for a total amount of $5 billion to Iraq, to purchase grain. The Iraqis bought the grain and through a barter agreement in Jordan purchased equipment for manufacturing a nuclear bomb...


The subject has been widely discussed in Britain, France and Italy, but has not yet left the drawing board stage. The same is true of India, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. In Russia (around Moscow) there is a missile system for intercepting ballistic missiles, generally similar to the Patriot PAC2.


The original estimate of Iran’s ballistic capability has been considerably reduced, as a result of intelligence information passed by Israel to the US. According to the new estimate, Iran should have deployed the Shihab 3 missile, having a range of 1,000 km., by the end of 1998. However, the whole world was caught by surprise when the Iranians deployed the missile in July 1998.


This declaration, amongst others, was made by Hashami Rafsanjani, the former Iranian Prime Minister, in the conference of “Jerusalem Day for solidarity with the Palestinian people”, which took place on January 23, 1998 in Teheran. The fact that the conference received the official blessing of, and was sponsored by, the Government of Iran, and that the guest of honor at the conference was the PLO Ambassador in Iran, adds a somewhat grotesque aspect to the “peace process”.


It goes without saying that the boundaries of this schematic division are quite extensive. The height of the atmosphere for our purpose is 100 km. The Arrow, according to foreign sources, will be capable of intercepting an attacking missile close to this height. In contrast, the efficient range of the improved Hawk is a few kilometers. The two missiles are worlds apart from the technological aspect, but in this schematic division they both lie in the same group.


However, in a number of quite reliable sources, including the September 1997 issue of Spectrum, the prestigious American publication, the range was given as 40 to 100 km. above the atmosphere. It was therefore classified as a mid trajectory missile.


The data, which do not include the cost of R&D, are those of the project developers, and therefore should be referred to with care.


It should be emphasized that the American program for intercepting missiles at the boost phase using missiles launched from a UAV, was rejected by the BMDO as impracticable.


The economic cost of firing Scuds on Israel was estimated at 4% of the GDP, equivalent to $4 billion (1997).


This was an extension of the 1925 Geneva Convention, which prohibits use of chemical and biological weapons in war, Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).


See Gerald Steinberg, “The Failure of the MTCR”, Ballistic Missiles: The Threat and the Response, ACPR Publishers and Brassey's (UK) Ltd., 1999. 


See my article, “ABC Weapons in the Middle East – on the Threshold of Critical Mass”, Nativ, No. 5, 1992.


For details see: Martin Sherman, “Trends in Israel’s Defense Budget: The Growing Threat Potential vs. The Diminishing Response Capacity”, Ariel Center for Policy Research, Policy Paper No. 9.


Three of the many demands that the Arabs, and not a few good Jews, return to constantly.


See the comprehensive work of Reuven Pedatzur, “The Arrow, Introduction to a Public Debate”, Nativ, No. 5, 1994, and also the chapters by Geoffrey Forden and David Gates in Ballistic Missiles: The Threat and the Response, ACPR Publishers and Brassey's (UK) Ltd., 1999. 


The exact number is a closely guarded secret. The largest figure quoted according to unclassified Israeli sources is 240, and it is fairly certain that this is exaggerated.


Considerable details of the stealth and deception methods of the attacking missile against the defense systems can be found by the reader in the chapters in Ballistic Missiles: The Threat and the Response, ACPR Publishers and Brassey's (UK) Ltd., 1999, by Reuven Pedatzur, Geoffrey Forden and David Gates.


Another simple technology is concealing the warhead in a cloud of metallic chaff emitted from it in space, having the same radar signature as the warhead itself. The cloud of chaff would move in space with the same speed and trajectory as the warhead. This technology was developed successfully at the beginning of the 1960s, for ballistic missiles launched from Polaris submarines.


It is somewhat ironic that the failure of the Patriot to intercept the Iraqi Scud missiles above Tel Aviv resulted mainly from the lack of ability to predict the trajectory of the attacking missile. The missile went into an unexpected spin and made corkscrew motions; the Patriot was helpless against it.