Air force to simulate missile defense

Air force constructing

yariv shnapp 248.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
yariv shnapp 248.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
In an effort to better prepare missile defense operators for future conflicts, the Israel Air Force's Air Defense Division is in the midst of constructing a "simulator farm" which will be used to train soldiers manning Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome defense systems. The simulator farm will be located at the Air Defense Division's training base south of Beersheba and will also include a simulator for the Hawk surface-to-air missile system, the IAF's primary anti-aircraft missile. In the coming months, the Air Defense Division will receive an advanced simulator of the Patriot missile system from Raytheon, the system's manufacturer. In addition, the IAF will soon receive a simulator for the Iron Dome system, which is in final test stages and is scheduled to be deployed along the Gaza border - to defend against Kassam and Katyusha rockets - by the middle of 2010. "These simulators will allow us to train operators in the best way possible and improve their operational capabilities," said Col. Yariv Shnapp, commander of the Air Defense Division's Training Base. The simulators would also allow the Air Defense Division to study mistakes and conduct thorough probes of its operations. Israel is currently developing a number of new missile defense systems - a newer version of the Arrow called the Arrow 3 for long-range ballistic missiles, the Iron Dome for short-range rockets and David's Sling for medium-range rockets. The Patriot will continue as a backup system for the Arrow, as well as to intercept enemy aircraft, another one of its applications. Even though the Iron Dome and David's Sling are still in development, the systems were included in simulations that the IAF drilled together with the United States European Command and Missile Defense Agency during the Juniper Cobra joint missile defense exercise held here last month. Shnapp said that the simulator farm would be the most advanced unit of its kind and would be made available to foreign militaries interested in studying and practicing new systems. In addition to the soldiers from the US military that were recently in Israel, officers from Netherlands recently visited the base to study different training methods. "There is no reason that other militaries that have these systems will not be able to come to Israel to study and train," Shnapp said. "We already hold a course here for battery commanders. There is no reason there can't be one at the same time in English." Ahead of the planned deployment of Iron Dome, the IAF is in the process of creating the battalion that will operate the system. The first battery will be manned by soldiers who have already served as missile defense operators on the Patriot and Arrow systems. Starting in August 2010, the training base will begin a mandatory course on the system for all recruits. The Air Defense Division is also currently writing the doctrine for the operation of the Iron Dome system. One of the main questions is whether there should be a "man in the middle" - an operator who decides when to launch an interceptor such as the Arrow. The problem Shnapp explained, is that the Arrow intercepts long-range rockets which take several minutes to strike Israel. With Kassams and Katyushas fired from Gaza there is usually only a few seconds. For this reason, the system will mostly work automatically and will be linked to a specially-designed radar that will distinguish between rockets that will strike population centers that need to be intercepted and rockets that will hit open areas and therefore do not need to be intercepted. "It will likely work automatically and the operator will have the ability to stop it if necessary," he explained.