x-band radar 248 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An IDF request to permit Israeli soldiers to control the new high-powered radar that the US has deployed in the Negev has been declined, senior defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
The X-Band radar's arrival in Israel last Sunday was kept under tight wraps until it was revealed over the weekend by Defense News, an industry newsletter.
The system, which came in a convoy of 12 transport planes and together with a 120-member crew, has been set up temporarily at the Nevatim air base in the Negev and will be moved to a permanent site in the next few months.
The high-powered radar, known as FBX-T, will be hooked up to the US military's Joint Tactical Ground Station and, assisted by satellites, will be capable of picking up a ballistic missile shortly after launch at which point it can estimate the time and location of its impact.
Those capabilities will cut the response time of Israel's Arrow anti-missile system, which currently works with a less advanced radar.
According to defense officials, the IDF has asked to be allowed to station its soldiers in the radar station to be able to process the information received.
"The Americans have so far said no, but this could change over time," one official explained. "We would prefer to have complete independence when it comes to our warning systems."
According to the current plan, American soldiers will control the radar, which will be connected to the Israeli Air Force's Arrow control room in Palmahim.
The Arrow's current radar, known as Green Pine, can pick up incoming missiles at a range of 800 to 960 km.
The new system has a range of around 1,900 km., giving Israel vital minutes to respond by launching interceptors.
In related news, The Guardian reported over the weekend that the US had refused to give Israel a green light to attack Iran's nuclear facilities when Jerusalem requested Washington's support for such a move this past spring.
According to the report, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert raised the issue in a meeting with US President George W. Bush in May. Bush, senior European diplomatic officials told the paper, said he would not support a strike on Iran and added that his position was unlikely to change as long as he was in office.
Bush's position was apparently the result of two factors, the sources said: The first was US concern over Iranian retaliation, which would likely include attacks on US targets in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as on trade routes in the Persian Gulf; the second was US fears that Israel would not succeed in disabling Iran's nuclear facilities in a single strike, while ongoing strikes could bring on a full-scale war.
Israel would likely have to fly over Iraqi airspace - of which the US has total control - in order to strike in Iran, the sources said, and so America would be blamed for any such attack, even if it did not actively support it.
In hopes of soliciting support to contain the Iranian threat, Olmert leaves next Monday for a two-day visit to Russia to urge its government to support stiffer economic sanctions against Iran.
Lack of Russian support for such a measure is one of the reasons why a fourth round of international economic sanctions against Iran has so far failed to garner support in the United Nations.
Olmert will meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and other top officials. He is likely to protest Russia's sale of defensive missiles to Iran and urge it not cede to a request by Syrian President Bashar Assad for an upgrade in defensive arms sales.
The two leaders are also likely to discuss Russia's intention to hold a Middle East peace conference in the spring, as a follow-up to the US sponsored one held in Annapolis in November.
Olmert's trip has been organized in conjunction with both the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry. The trip itself was planned prior to his resignation. It comes after an increase in Russian-Israeli tensions due to Russian arms sales to Israel's adversaries and Israel's arms sales to Georgia, which this summer fought a war with Russia. In a nod to Russia, Israel began downgrading those ties even before Russia's brief war against Georgia in August.
Tovah Lazaroff, AP and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to the report.