Israel eyes US missile defense system

Officials say Barak to ask Gates for Vulcan-Phalanx to be deployed alongside Israeli-made Iron Dome.

phalanx missile defense 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
phalanx missile defense 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak hopes to buy a US missile defense system to protect Israeli towns from short-range rockets and mortar fire, defense officials said Tuesday. Barak plans to ask US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to sell Israel the Vulcan-Phalanx cannon and radar system when he visits Washington in June, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the request has not yet formally been made. The Vulcan-Phalanx - manufactured by US company Raytheon Co.- is to be integrated into a multilayer defense umbrella that will include Israel's Iron Dome and two other missile systems being developed with the United States, the officials said. During Israel's recent military offensive into the Gaza Strip, Palestinians there fired rockets more than 45 kilometers into Israel. They continue to lob mortar shells and Kassam rockets across the border. The defense ministry has been looking at anti-rocket systems since 2003 but put the search into high gear after the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when nearly 4,000 Katyusha rockets slammed into northern Israel. Iron Dome, under development by state-owned weapons maker Rafael, is meant to counter Hizbullah's Katyushas and the Kassam rockets fired from Gaza. The laser-based system is expected to be ready for deployment next year. Rafael is also working with Raytheon to develop a system named "Magic Wand" against medium-range missiles. To meet long-range threats, such as an Iranian attack, Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. and Chicago-based Boeing Co. are producing the Arrow missile, which has been successfully tested and partially deployed. The most advanced version, the Arrow II, was specifically designed to counter Iran's Shihab ballistic missile, which is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The Shahab-3 has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers, putting Israel well within striking distance.