Sunday, August 24, 2008

Three Americans in a Trailer

I wrote last week about the long-range radar component of America’s missile defense system that is being deployed in Israel. Haaretz has some more background on it:

Israel’s Missile Shield Against Iran: Three Americans in a Trailer

By Aluf Benn and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents

A commander and two operators monitor missile radars in an armored trailer somewhere in Europe. Inside, they use satellite technology to track the origin and trajectory of long-range missiles. In true American fashion, each shift begins with calisthenics, followed by an intelligence briefing.

That is the envisioned routine of the U.S. team that will be responsible for protecting Israel from surface-to-surface missiles launched from Iran or Syria.

Earlier this month the U.S. and Israel agreed on the deployment of a high-powered early-warning missile radar system in the Negev, to be staffed by U.S. military personnel. The station will receive information from the U.S. team in Europe that will aid it in its work.

The deployment of the Joint Tactical Ground Station (JTAGS) system, is widely seen as a kind of parting gift from Washington to Jerusalem as President George W. Bush prepares to leave office.

That’s what it made me think of, too. What kind of help might Israel expect from an Obama administration? How will a possible President Obama react when Iran’s nukes become a strategic reality, or when Deobandi forces seize Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal?

The system will protect Israel’s skies from missile attacks, but the flip side of the deal is that Israel’s freedom of action against Iran or Syria will be significantly curtailed.

Israel will be required to obtain U.S. permission for any such operation, since it would endanger the lives of the U.S. personnel operating the system. The ground station itself would likely become the target of any reprisal attack by Iran or Syria.

And here’s an aspect of the operation that I hadn’t considered:
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Senior defense officials view the radar system deployment as a signal of Washington’s opposition to an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program.

Rumor already has it that the US says it will not help Israel attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Now it seems that we are going to use what leverage we have to restrain them.

Is there no choice, then, but to accept the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran?

Sources in Jerusalem said on Saturday that the Negev station would be operated by civilian firms contracted by the Pentagon, along with a small staff of liaison officers. The early warning station is expected to be transferred to Israeli operation at some point in the future.

The officials said the agreement does not stipulate the establishment of a permanent U.S. base in Israeli territory.

They said the warning station would significantly extend the response time to a missile attack and intercept those attacks from a far greater distance than had been previously possible.

Israel’s current missile defense system depends on the identification of a single U.S. satellite, which can spot the missile itself but not its origin or path.

The new system is significantly more accurate than Israel’s “Green Pine” radar system, which supports the Arrow anti-missile system.

JTAGS will cost between $20 and $30 million, the U.S. periodical Defense News reported last week.

The system is expected to be set up next year, but it could go on-line earlier, ahead of a large-scale U.S.-Israeli missile defense drill slated for this fall.

Read the whole article for a lot more detail on the history and politics of the installation of the FBX-T system in Israel.


Hat tip: Abu Elvis.

2 comments:

Robin Shadowes said...

Although I have to admit I'm not to happy about possible nuclear war in the near future I can also see the threat we all might risk here in the west if these maniacs achieve nukes, no matter if it is just a few or all of the pakis arsenal, it will probably result in the worst nightmare possible. They are both more aggressive and ruthless than us and we also know how dedicated they are to jihad. Perhaps wiping out Iran and Pakistan will be a relative small prize to pay considering the alternative, many capitals of europe wiped out and many cities in america as well.

Flanders Fields said...

I wonder why there is an announced presence of US military at the installation? There surely are ways to accomplish the same purported aim by using civilian contractors, as is often done. Is there a "sacrificial lamb" quality in the military presence, or is it merely symbolic for "joint committment"?