U.S. helps shield Is­rael with aid for Iron Dome

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY KRISTINA WONG

Is­rael has in­ter­cepted hun­dreds of rock­ets fired from the Gaza Strip this month thanks to a U.S.-funded de­fense sys­tem that in­ter­cepts short-range mis­siles and knocks them out of the sky.

Called Iron Dome, the Is­raeli de­fense sys­tem uses cam­eras and radar to de­tect a rocket or mor­tar launch and track the shell’s flight path from a dis­tance as far as 45 miles away.

It then trans­mits data about the shell’s tra­jec­tory to a fire­con­trol sys­tem that de­ter­mines whether the rocket poses a threat to a pop­u­lated area in Is­rael. It ig­nores mis­siles that are pro­jected to hit un­pop­u­lated ar­eas.

But if an in­com­ing rocket does pose a threat, Iron Dome launches an in­ter­cep­tor mis­sile that uses its built-in radar to help it close in on the tar­get and de­stroy it over a safe area.

Ac­cord­ing to the Is­raeli De­fense Force, more than 1,000 rock­ets have been fired from Gaza since at­tacks be­gan Nov. 14, and Iron Dome has been used to in­ter­cept at least 359 of them.

The sys­tem is not per­fect: Iron Dome has in­ter­cepted and de­stroyed about 85 per­cent of rock­ets that have posed threats.

“It’s ex­tra­or­di­nary. … You can watch th­ese mis­siles be­ing taken out of the sky, and for that we really owe a great debt of ap­pre­ci­a­tion to Amer­ica, to the pres­i­dent, to the Congress who have given a tremen­dous amount of sup­port to this Iron Dome bat­tery sys­tem,” Is­raeli Am­bas­sador to the U.S. Michael Oren told Fox News.

Iron Dome was built us­ing in­dige­nous tech­nol­ogy by Is­raeli de­fense com­pany Rafael Ad­vanced De­fense Sys­tems Ltd., and it has ben­e­fited from fi­nan­cial sup­port by the U.S.

The U.S. pro­vided about $205 mil­lion to Is­rael in 2010 for the sys­tem and about $70 mil­lion this year, ac­cord­ing to The As­so­ci­ated Press. Each in­ter­cep­tor mis­sile costs about $40,000.

“Iron Dome has been an in­cred­i­ble success for U.S.-Is­raeli mis­sile de­fense co­op­er­a­tion,” said Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, chair­man of the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

“This life-sav­ing sys­tem has suc­cess­fully in­ter­cepted ap­prox­i­mately 90 per­cent of the en­emy rock­ets it has en­gaged,” the Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can said. “I am pleased to have been one of the ear­li­est sup­port­ers and to have pro­vided more than $200 mil­lion for ad­di­tional Iron Dome bat­ter­ies and Tamir in­ter­cep­tors in the [fis­cal 2013] Na­tional De­fense Au­tho­riza­tion Act.”

The House’s ver­sion of the fis­cal 2013 Na­tional De­fense Au­tho­riza­tion Act would pro­vide

“Re­forms re­lated to the­o­ret­i­cal study, the pi­lot se­lec­tion process, train­ing sub­jects and method­ol­ogy have taken place,” Xin­hua re­ported.

“We have made a lot of ef­fort to de­velop and use flight sim­u­la­tors to shorten train­ing and save costs,” Gen. Xie Hong, deputy head of the air force train­ing com­mand was quoted as say­ing. about $168 mil­lion for gen­eral U.S.-Is­raeli mis­sile de­fense co­op­er­a­tion, about $100 mil­lion more than what the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­quested.

The de­fense bill also pro­poses to au­tho­rize $210 mil­lion for the Iron Dome pro­gram for

Cu­ri­ously, Mr. Ma’s mes­sage to his main­land coun­ter­parts was not sent in his role as pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of China, but as chair­man of the rul­ing Na­tion­al­ist Party.

In the note, Mr. Ma stressed the lofty mis­sion of joint ef­forts by the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party and the Na­tion­al­ist Party for “the grand re­vival of the Chi­nese na­tion.”

Un­like Mr. Hu’s pre­de­ces­sor, Jiang Zemin, who threat­ened Tai­wan with mis­siles and hard­core diplo­matic pres­sure, Mr. Hu was able to work to­gether with the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion to rein in Tai­wan’s in­de­pen­dence-lean­ing forces.

Yet, un­like all the pre­vi­ous Chi­nese Com­mu­nist lead­ers, in­clud­ing Mao Ze­dong and Deng Xiaop­ing, the in­com­ing Mr. Xi has the most in­ti­mate and first-hand knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of Tai­wan.

For more than a decade, Mr. Xi built up his po­lit­i­cal re­sume as a re­form-minded com­mu­nist of­fi­cial in Fu­jian province, a stone’s throw from Tai­wan across the 100-mile-wide Tai­wan Strait.

In ad­di­tion to its ge­o­graphic prox­im­ity to Tai­wan, Fu­jian shares close an­ces­tral, lin­guis­tic, cul­tural, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal ties with the Tai­wanese. fis­cal 2013 alone, and a to­tal of $680 mil­lion to fund the Iron Dome sys­tem un­til 2015.

“It’s sig­nif icantly more money than we have in­vested into the sys­tem,” said Michaela Bendikova, a re­search as­so­ciate at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion.

Ms. Bendikova said Iron Dome has gar­nered wide­spread pop­u­lar­ity in Is­rael, not­ing a Face­book page that up­dates ev­ery mis­sile that the de­fense sys­tem in­ter­cepts.

“Although not ad­vis­able from a se­cu­rity per­spec­tive, some Is­raelis go out and take videos of in­ter­cepts,” she said.

Is­rael’s mil­i­tary has de­ployed five Iron Dome fir­ing units, or bat­ter­ies, most of them in the south­ern part of the coun­try near Gaza.

The fifth bat­tery was de­ployed Satur­day out­side Tel Aviv, t wo months ahead of sched­ule. Hours later, it shot down a rocket headed to­ward Tel Aviv, AP re­ported.

Iron Dome got its first field test in March, when the Pales­tinian mil­i­tant group Is­lamic Ji­had launched scores of rock­ets from Gaza. The de­fense sys­tem re­port­edly in­ter­cepted about 85 per­cent of the rock­ets deemed to be threats. To­day, there are more Tai­wanese busi­ness­men and Tai­wanese in­vest­ment in Fu­jian than in any other re­gion of China.

Mr. Xi is said to have a good rep­u­ta­tion among many Tai­wanese for be­ing less stri­dent and more will­ing to lis­ten to the Tai­wanese side of the six-decades-old po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary stand­off.

“At this moment of your Party’s change of lead­er­ship,” Mr. Ma wrote to Mr. Xi in his note, “I ea­gerly await the con­tin­u­a­tion of our two par­ties’ more out­stand­ing achieve­ments in fur­ther pro­mot­ing our deep­en­ing ex­change and es­tab­lish­ment of of­fi­cial li­ai­son fa­cil­i­ties on each other’s side.”

Closer ties will be eas­ier said than done. At present, the Chi­nese government has hun­dreds of mis­siles — by some es­ti­mates as many as 1,500 — de­ployed along the Fu­jian coast and aimed at Tai­wan.

Chi­nese mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence also has been run­ning vig­or­ous es­pi­onage op­er­a­tions against the is­land democ­racy. China has not re­lented on vows to in­vade and take Tai­wan, and Bei­jing’s in­ter­na­tional iso­la­tion cam­paign against Taipei is con­tin­u­ing with­out any sign of eas­ing.

Miles Yu can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Iron Dome pro­tects the port town of Ash­dod. The Is­raeli De­fense Force said the sys­tem has in­ter­cepted at least 359 of the more than 1,000 rock­ets since at­tacks be­gan Nov. 14.

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