Picnicking at Missile Launching Site

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 5) by Zvi Alush — The IDF testing site in southern Israel, from which a number of Patriot missiles were successfully test-fired as part of a joint Israeli-American military exercise, looked yesterday,between one missile and the next, like one big picnic by young men and women in uniform.

Israeli soldiers played with the American combat troops who had come to Israel to take part in the Jennifer Cobra exercise. One corpulent black American soldier took some of the Israeli soldiers piggy-back around the tents, to the cheers of his comrades in arms. One Israeli soldier showed his American counterparts how to disassemble and reassemble an M-16 in record time.

What stood out most were the mixed couples that had been created: Israeli women soldiers from the IDF’s anti-aircraft units spent a lot of time in the company of the American troops, trading phone numbers and giggles of embarrassment. From time to time a number of American soldiers would walk to the edge of the precipice, peer over at the wondrous landscape of the crater beneath and say “wow” in wonder.

But one should not get the wrong impression from the atmosphere on the ground: the troops displayed a high level of professionalism in the course of the exercise, which ended successfully when six Patriot missiles hit drones that simulated Iraqi targets.

IAF officials said they had a lot of faith in the Patriot missiles, notwithstanding their failure in 1991 when they not only failed to intercept any Scud missiles but also caused damage of their own. High-ranking IAF officials said that the improved missiles that were fired yesterday had been specially modified to intercept long range missiles. Security officials also noted that the Patriot missiles were not Israel’s principal means of defense against incoming missiles, but rather served only as back up for the Arrow missile system.

In the course of the next few days another two batteries of Patriot missiles are due to arrive in Israel. These batteries come with a stock of 128 missiles. These batteries were sent to Israel by the German government.

Shooting in the Air

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 5) by Aryeh Egozi (news analysis) — The launch of six Patriot missiles in southern Israel yesterday was impressive but it did not attest in any way to the ability of the Patriots to intercept Iraqi surface-to-surface missiles. Nothing has changed: the Patriot is still considered to be ineffective at intercepting missiles.

The test in which the Patriots were fired yesterday did not come close to simulating real-time conditions. As such, it says nothing about the Patriot’s ability to intercept incoming ballistic missiles. In yesterday’s test, the Patriots were fired at small American drones that served as targets. At best, these targets could be construed as simulating full-sized airplanes, but not missiles. The drones, which fly at velocities beneath the speed of sound, do not simulate the Scud missiles, which approach their targets at an enormous velocity.

There is nothing new about the Patriot missile’s limitations. The Patriot was planned as an anti-aircraft missile, and it is considered to be ineffective against ballistic missiles despite the modifications that were made to it in the aftermath of the Gulf War, when it failed miserably to intercept Scud missiles.

Both the Patriot missiles currently in IDF stock and those that were brought here from the United States were modified mainly in terms of their programming and their data relaying system.

The limitations of the Patriot missile have prompted the IAF’s anti-aircraft units not to rely solely on it. Before the attack on Iraq, Israel’s air-space will be protected by Arrow missile batteries, which were designed specifically to intercept missiles. This defense system will be backed up by Patriot missile batteries and the sophisticated Agis radar system that is operated aboard American Navy ships.

The test fire of the Patriot missiles yesterday was the peak of the joint exercise of Israeli and American anti-aircraft troops. In the course of the exercise the degree of coordination between the two countries’ Air Force units was improved and an atmosphere of cooperation was created. The above notwithstanding, the ability of the Patriot to intercept incoming missiles remains great.

But even if the Patriot missile does not provide adequate protection against missiles-it is expected to be effective against another threat, which it was designed to cope with from the outset: a plane that might try to slip past the air-defense systems. Intelligence points to the possibility that the Iraqi air force has turned old planes into “chemical planes” that will be sent on suicide missions against Israel.

Home Front Command: Prepare Bomb Shelters

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 4) by Eitan Glickman — The Home Front Command has begun its last stage of preparations prior to a possible missile attack on Israel in the event of a war in Iraq. OC Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Yosef Mishlav said yesterday that the month of February was the last window of time available to prepare the home front: “We are entering the final stages of preparation and readiness. Whoever can should prepare their bomb shelters already. Anyone who doesn’t prepare now is liable to get hurt.”

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said yesterday in the course of a tour of an IDF Navy base in Haifa: “It is my impression that the Americans are determined to carry out the attack on Iraq.” Mofaz toured the command deck on the Dakar that sank exactly 35 years ago and said that Israel was prepared for any possible attack.

Home Front Command data indicates that 30% of Israeli residents have already prepared sealed rooms. In the course of the next number of days the distribution of the “In case of a genuine alarm” booklets that contain explanations to the public on how to behave in times of emergency will be completed. Mishlav said that the booklets will have been distributed to all households in Israel within three weeks.

Mishlav said yesterday that the Home Front Command has scheduled a number of state of emergency exercises in educational facilities. He said the Home Front Command had stocked itself completely and the Homat Migdal [“tower wall”] siren system would allow the Home Front Command to send all the residents of Israel to their bomb shelters within a matter of seconds by pressing a single button.

“We have held and we will continue to hold various drills of the discovery and identification teams that are supposed to reach the site of missile strikes within minutes. Our objective is to get the teams into the field with the utmost speed so that we can release the civilians as quickly as possible from the bomb shelters,” said Mishlav.

The Home Front Command reported that 3.5 million Israelis had renewed their gas mask kits in the course of the past year and a half at a rate of 20,000 civilians a day. Mishlav said that the Haredi community was particularly lax in renewing their gas mask kits. “We make situation assessments about various scenarios and we also plan for surprises. There is a period of a few days that the population has to prepare sealed rooms,” said Mishlav.

One high-ranking Home Front Command officer said yesterday: “The time has come for the civilians to buy plastic sheets and tape and to store them somewhere in the house. The time has come for the civilians to buy protective equipment without panicking. When we give the sign to seal rooms they can do so without the pressure of standing in long lines.

The Home Front Command has also informed 1.6 million school children in the past number of weeks about the types of threats and the various gas mask kits. Presently, 40 gas mask distribution centers are open across Israel and the Home Front Command is prepared to open additional gas mask distribution centers and to extend the hours they are open if need be.

The Home Front Command is planning on opening an information center (telephone *3444) in the next number of days where civilians can find out where the nearest gas mask distribution center is. The Home Front Command is also preparing to distribute gas mask kits to the foreign workers in Israel in return for a NIS 200 deposit and to new immigrants at absorption centers.

As part of the preparations the Home Front Command has formed a special unit that will distribute in times of emergency “medicine back packs” in densely populated areas that have a large number of children in an attempt to provide an initial response to a situation in which civilians are required to stay in their homes. The Home Front Command is also in the final process of producing movies and pamphlets that are to be used once war has broken out.

IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz said yesterday that the number of planes that are on 24-hour-call has been increased.

News Articles from February 5, 2002