U.S., Israel seal deal for missile radar defense system
Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency spokesman: New system would be particularly useful should Iran attack Israel.
The United States and Israel have agreed on the deployment of high-powered, early-warning missile radars in the Negev desert, to be manned by U.S. military personnel.
The radars, known as X-Band, will be linked to a U.S. satellite-based alert network.
A spokesman for the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said the new system could double or even triple the missiles' range of identification, which would be particularly useful should Iran launch an attack on Israel.
Details of the deal, which caught the public's attention at the end of July, were reported yesterday in the periodical Defense News, and were corroborated by senior U.S. and Israeli officials.
The agreement had previously been discussed in meetings with Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and his American counterpart, Admiral Mike Mullen, and by civilian defense leaders of both countries.
According to the periodical, the radar will be operated by staff from the U.S. European Command, starting in early 2009.
The system's deployment may even be moved up to this autumn, in order to integrate it with the Arrow missile defense system.
Under the terms of the agreement, U.S. military staff will be permanently based in Israel for the first time. U.S. Army personnel were temporarily based in the country during the first Gulf War in 1991, and during brief periods of tension with Iraq following that conflict.
Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, the head of MDA, told Defense News that from his perspective, "We're moving ahead as quickly as we can."
The IDF's current early-warning system, known as Green Pine and a component of the Arrow network, has a range of 800-900 kilometers. When combined with the American satellite system, its range expands to 2000 kilometers.
"We've been studying architectures to provide an integrated layered defense that will plug into various architectures for the region for many years," he said. "And having an X-Band radar, like the one we have in Japan, has always been part of our calculation."
An Israeli security expert said the significance of the deal lies primarily in its linking Israel with the U.S. satellite system, which will add "precious minutes" to its early warning ability.