Israel not locked on Phalanx purchase

Defense officials will decide whether to buy US anti-Kassam cannon upon viewing test this summer.

phalanx missile defense 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
phalanx missile defense 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel has yet to decide whether to purchase the Vulcan Phalanx to counter the Kassam threat and will only make a decision after viewing a live test of the rapid-cannon system scheduled for this summer, senior defense officials said Tuesday. News of the summer test came amid reports Tuesday that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had already ordered the Defense Ministry to purchase the system. Officials told The Jerusalem Post that while Israel was interested in procuring the system and deploying it along the border with the Gaza Strip, there were still several obstacles. Firstly, there is a question of whether the system would be effective against the Kassam rocket and mortar threat Israel faced from the Gaza Strip. Israel had asked the Pentagon a number of times to see the specifications of the system and to watch a live test. The approval was received only several months ago and Defense Ministry Director-General Pinhas Buchris is scheduled to attend a live test of the system sometime between June and August. Following that visit, the Defense Ministry will make its final decision whether to purchase the system. Manufactured by Raytheon, the first Vulcan Phalanx was sent to Iraq in 2006 and is still used by the Americans to protect the Green Zone in Baghdad. The system consists of a 20mm cannon originally designed to defend Navy ships from incoming missiles. The cannon is controlled by a radar that detects and locks in on incoming enemy projectiles. Each system can cover a 1,200 square meter area and costs $25 million. To protect a city the size of Sderot, the Defense Ministry would need to deploy a number of systems. In addition, the ministry will evaluate the noise levels of the system, which fires 6,000 rounds a minute. Even if the Defense Ministry decides that it wants to buy the system, the Pentagon will still have to approve the sale, and it is not certain that the US Army would be willing to give up one of the systems currently in production to Israel, instead of having it deployed to protect US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Defense Ministry refused to comment on the report.