Israel readying new arms to meet Iran
With cutting-edge anti-missile
systems and two new submarines that can carry nuclear
weapons, Israel is readying a new generation of armaments
designed to defend itself against distant Iran as well as
Tehran's proxy armies on its borders.
Having failed to crush Hamas' firepower in its Gaza offensive
last winter, or Hezbollah's in its 2006 war in Lebanon, Israel
is turning to an increasingly sophisticated mix of defensive
A system that can unleash a metallic cloud to shoot down
incoming rockets in the skies over Gaza or Lebanon has already
been successfully tested, according to its maker, and is
expected to be deployed next year. The army is developing a new
generation of its Arrow defense system designed to shoot down
Iran's long-range Shihab missiles outside the Earth's
It has three German-made Dolphin submarines and is buying two
more. They can be equipped with nuclear-tipped missiles which
analysts say could be stationed off the coast of Iran. Israel
says Iran, despite its denials, is trying to acquire atomic
weapons. It has never confirmed its Dolphin fleet has nuclear
capabilities, but senior officials acknowledge that commanders
are fast at work devising a strike plan in case diplomacy
The missile projects have their critics in Israel, who question
their effectiveness and say they are too costly. And many
Israelis would probably agree with U.S. former President Bill
Clinton's recent warning to an Israeli audience that the
country could achieve true security only by making peace with
its enemies, who he said would always be able to improve their
ability to attack.
"The trajectory of technology is not your friend," he said.
"You need to get this done."
Under their overarching fear of nuclear annihilation by Iran,
whose regime has repeatedly called for Israel's extinction, the
more immediate threat is seen as coming from Iranian-backed
Hezbollah and Hamas.
Israel's military believes Hezbollah has tripled its prewar
arsenal to more than 40,000 rockets, some of which can strike
virtually anywhere in Israel — a dramatic improvement over the
short-range missiles fired in 2006.
Hamas has also increased its rocket arsenal since last winter's
fighting, said a senior military official who spoke on
condition of anonymity in accordance with army regulations.
Hamas recently test-fired a rocket that can travel up to 60
kilometers (40 miles), putting the Tel Aviv area within range
for the first time, according to Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin,
Israel's military intelligence chief.
Israel's defense industry says it is close to deploying Iron
Dome, a system that will use cameras and radar to track
incoming rockets and shoot them down within seconds of their
launch. The system is so sophisticated that it can almost
instantly predict where a rocket will land, changing its
calculations to account for wind, sun and other conditions in
fractions of a second.
Shooting down a missile is a bit like stopping a bullet with a
bullet. But Eyal Ron, one of Iron Dome's developers, said his
system will fire an interceptor that explodes into a cloud of
small pieces which make it unnecessary to score a direct
"It's a great advantage because to bring an interceptor to a
target flying at incredible speed to an exact point is very
hard," said Ron, a specialist at mPrest Systems Ltd., an
Israeli software firm developing the system along with local
arms giant Rafael.
He said recent tests in Israel's southern desert were
successful, and a final dress rehearsal is expected in December
before the system goes live next year.
While Israelis who have endured years of rocket fire from Gaza
are sure to welcome Iron Dome, the system does not have
"Maybe it will be good during times like this when you have 10
rockets, but not for a war. If you invest in such a system, I
think you're going to go bankrupt," said Gabriel Saboni, the
head of the military research program at Israel's Institute for
National Security Studies.
Iron Dome is one part of a larger strategy that includes more
tanks and dozens of new armored personnel carriers equipped
with technology to repel anti-tank missiles.
The ultimate trump card is a nuclear arsenal Israel refuses to
acknowledge but which no one doubts exists.
The strategy that became obvious in the Lebanon and Gaza wars
was simply one of overwhelming force to deter further
This policy appears to have bought Israel a fragile calm on
both its northern and southern borders, but it has come at a
The military brass are deeply concerned that international
criticism of Israel's conduct of the Gaza war, including
allegations of war crimes contained in a high-profile U.N.
report, will tie their hands in the future.
Military officials speaking on condition of anonymity said
large resources are going into developing increasingly accurate
weapons, such as bombs that cause damage over a smaller area
and noisemaking explosions that scare away civilians before
real bombs are dropped.
Few expect the current quiet to last indefinitely, and
muscle-flexing on all sides attests to the elusiveness of a
peaceful Middle East.
Iran is conducting large-scale air defense war games this week
designed to protect its nuclear facilities from attack. Israel
recently moved warships through the Red Sea toward Iran, and
three weeks ago the Israeli navy captured a ship, the Francop,
that it said was carrying a huge cache of Iranian weapons bound
Last week Netanyahu boarded a Dolphin submarine and then the
missile ship that led the capture of the Francop. He thanked
crew members for seizing the haul and told them that Israel is
Iran's first target, "but not the last" — reflecting his
contention that Iranian ambitions are not just an Israeli