(photo credit: Courtesy)
With Hizbullah still in possession of more than 10,000 short-range Katyusha rockets, the Defense Ministry has contacted Lockheed Martin - one of the world's largest defense contractors - and asked it to run tests and make adjustments to a high-powered, rapid-fire cannon built by the company to intercept incoming aerial targets.
The Skyshield 35 Air Defense System is a cannon that fires a unique 35-mm. AHEAD (Advanced Hit Efficiency And Destruction) shell that destroys incoming targets. It ejects 152 sub-projectiles that are released just ahead of the incoming target up to distances of close to 10 kilometers.
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The projectiles create a cloud ahead of the incoming rocket and penetrate it, inflicting enough damage to prevent it from striking its target. The system was developed by the Switzerland-based Oerlikon Contraves Corporation.
Initially developed to intercept incoming aircraft, and specifically unmanned drones, Lockheed Martin has been testing the system for the past few weeks to see if it is also suitable to intercept and destroy Katyusha rockets fired by Hizbullah. Before the war, the Defense Ministry had asked Lockheed to run tests to see if the system would be effective against the Palestinian homemade Kassam rocket.
The main changes that need to be made to the system are with the ammunition used to intercept the rockets.
According to officials close to the project, the quality and amount of explosives inside the shells need to be increased for the system to accurately intercept primitive rockets such as Katyushas and Kassams. The testing is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. Israeli defense officials have visited the US test site to watch the system's performance.
Hizbullah fired close to 4,000 rockets and missiles at northern Israel during the war.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz convened a meeting last week with senior defense officials and appointed Defense Ministry Director-General Gabi Ashkenazi to coordinate the defense establishment's efforts to find a quick answer to counter the Katyusha rockets.
But while Peretz has pointed specifically to Northrop Grumman's Skyguard land-based, air-defense system - also known as the Nautilus - as a possible answer, high-ranking defense officials have told The Jerusalem Post the system would not be chosen.
Some 10 years ago, Israel invested several hundred million dollars in the development of the system with the Hizbullah threat in mind, but the project was ditched after the defense establishment decided it was not suitable for Israel's needs.
Another possible answer to the Katyusha threat is the Vulcan Phalanx cannon, already installed on Navy missile ships and used to intercept incoming anti-ship missiles. Similar to the Skyshield, the Vulcan Phalanx cannon hones in on an incoming missile and shoots dozens of shells in a rapid-fire sequence.
The defense establishment is also considering using the Rafael-developed Barak antimissile system, which is used by the Navy.