'Bush to offer Israel powerful radar'

The Raytheon Co.-built system can track an object the size of a baseball from 4,700 km. away.

Arrow launch 2007 298.88 (photo credit: IAI)
Arrow launch 2007 298.88
(photo credit: IAI)
The US may offer Israel a powerful radar system that would greatly strengthen Israeli defenses against ballistic missiles while incorporating it directly into a growing US missile shield, Reuters reported on Saturday. US President George W. Bush is expected to discuss the issue during his visit to Israel on Wednesday and Thursday to mark the 60th anniversary of the state, people familiar with the matter said, according to the report. This is "probably the No. 2 issue" on Bush's agenda for the visit, second only to the Israel-Palestinian peace process, said Illinois Republican Rep. Mark Kirk, who has led calls for tighter US-Israel missile-defense ties, Reuters reported. The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency is developing the multibillion-dollar layered shield. Riki Ellison, a missile defense advocate with close ties to the Pentagon and companies involved in building the hardware, said giving Israel the missile-tracking system was "on the table right now," Reuters reported. The system, known as a "forward-based X-band radar," is transportable by air and uses high-powered pulsed beams to track objects in space such as missiles. The Raytheon Co.-built system can track an object the size of a baseball from 4,700 km. away. It would allow Israel's Arrow missile to engage a Shahab-3 ballistic missile about halfway through what would be a 11-minute flight from Iran, or six times sooner than Israel's "Green Pine" radar can, Kirk told Reuters in a telephone interview on Friday. Israel had discussed a range of "parting gifts" from Bush, who leaves office on January 20, including military pacts and technologies, an Israeli defense official said. The Pentagon was planning to have four transportable X-Band radars, including one already set up near Shariki in northern Japan to guard against missiles that could be fired by North Korea, a spokesman for the US Missile Defense Agency said. A second is due to be deployed near Iran, possibly in eastern Turkey or Georgia, assuming permission is granted. In addition, the US is awaiting final approval for a large, fixed-site, tracking radar in the Czech Republic scheduled for deployment by 2013.