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IBIS (Israel Boost Intercept System) – A Critique

Danny Leshem

Policy Paper No. 36, From the books:

Ballistic Missiles –
The Threat and
the Response

Arieh Stav (ed.),
ACPR Publishers and
Yediot Aharonot (Hebrew), 1998
ACPR Publishers and
Brassey's (UK) Ltd. (English),

The Threat of Ballistic Missiles in the
Middle East:
Active Defense and

Arieh Stav (ed.),
Sussex Academic Press and
ACPR Publishers, 2004


Proponents of Boost Phase Intercept (BPI) rightly claim terminal phase or midcourse ballistic missile defense cannot prevent a certain percentage, say 10 percent or more, of enemy ballistic missiles from leaking through ballistic missile defenses, which is an unacceptable figure. Moreover, the "leakage" of even a small number of theater ballistic missiles armed with non-conventional warheads would be unacceptable for any country, let alone a country the size of Israel and a population the size of Israel’s centered mainly in the Gush Dan area (a minuscule state barely visible on the world map which has had to fight for its existence throughout its history, for all the Arab and Iranian propaganda efforts over the years to portray it as some kind of insatiable imperialistic power). But the same would be true for BPI systems. A boost phase intercept system like the MOAB-armed IBIS being developed in Israel cannot realistically be expected to intercept successfully all ballistic missiles which would be launched from an enemy country the size of Iran, Iraq, Libya or even smaller Syria, not to mention a coalition of two or three enemy countries, in a crisis or war situation. The large number of ballistic missiles and their respective launchers in the present and future inventories of Arab and Iranian armed forces is likely to make it very difficult for any ballistic missile defense system, including a BPI system such as the IBIS, to defeat completely missile attacks. It is not clear how the IBIS could, for instance, successfully cope with large numbers of ballistic missiles being launched simultaneously or within a short period of time from one or more enemy countries. To get better results, the IBIS would have to have a capability to locate and destroy ballistic missile launchers as well.

There is not a single or ideal technical solution possible for the highly complex problems involved in ballistic missile defense. It would seem that the best approach must have a multi-layered defense, comprising terminal, mid-course as well as boost-phase intercept systems. The contribution of BPI systems like the IBIS and the Airborne Laser (ABL) to this multi-layered ballistic missile defense would be particularly important due to the deterrent effect that they could have in their ability to destroy enemy missiles armed with non-conventional warheads over enemy territory.

For the complete text of this article in Hebrew, click here.