US anti-missile ship to dock in Haifa

AEGIS defense system could be used in the event of an Iranian missile attack against Israel.

USS San Jacinto 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
USS San Jacinto 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
An American missile ship set to dock at Haifa Port on Monday is equipped with an anti-missile defense system that could be deployed in the region in the event of an Iranian missile attack against Israel. The USS San Jacinto is an AEGIS cruiser in the Ticonderoga Class and was commissioned in 1988. It carries the most advanced underwater surveillance system available today and is equipped with the AEGIS missile defense system, which was developed by Lockheed Martin to protect against aircraft and missiles. The ship will remain in Haifa for three days. While the IDF developed and operates the Arrow missile defense system, defense officials said Israel has expressed interest in the AEGIS and that last year, the Defense Ministry requested information on the system from the Pentagon. During the first Gulf War in 1991, the US deployed Patriot missile batteries in Israel to defend the country against Iraqi Scud missiles. "It is possible that one day, if we are under attack, the US will send these ships to the region to help defend us," a defense official said. "Until then, it is important that we get to know the system, its capabilities and its interoperability with our systems." The San Jacinto can launch long-range surface-to-surface Tomahawk cruise missiles, rocket torpedoes and standard surface-to-air missiles. The heart of the AEGIS system is the SPY-1A radar system, which is capable of detecting and tracking any aircraft or missile flying within 320 kilometers. The ship has participated in operations in Iraq and Bosnia. Defense analysts said the decision to dock at Haifa could also be part of a growing competition between the United States and Russia over military control in the Middle East. Russia recently decided to reestablish its naval presence in the region at Tartus, Syria. In recent months, Syria has begun renovations at the port to facilitate the docking of large Russian Navy ships.