First test of Israel’s Tamir short-range missile interceptor later this week
The Tamir interceptor, which are designed to kill artillery shells and short-range rockets, undergoes its first test this week. Its object is to find out if its response time can be shortened against Palestinian Qassam missiles fired from Gaza or Hizballah’s short-range rockets launched from Lebanon.
These announcements are usually made after the fact. This time the test launch was disclosed with the location of the testing site in southern Israel in advance, giving the Palestinian Hamas a chance to monitor the system’s performance from Gaza.
debkafile‘s defense sources report that prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak have been pushing Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, hard to hurry up and develop the anti-missile system quickly – and even offered personnel bonuses for shortening the time table. An operational short-range missile interceptor would provide them with yet another excuse to avoid conducting a major military operation to break the back of Hamas’ missile campaign from Gaza.
However, US defense experts were pessimistic about the Iron Dome’s prospects when the Senate Intelligence committee discussed Israel’s efforts to develop a short-range missile interceptor, debkafile‘s Washington sources report.
Aside from its high cost – $100,000 compared with $60-80,000 for fabricating a primitive Qassam – some experts doubt whether the Iron Dome can be operational by its target date of 2010. They think 2016 is the more realistic timeline.
Furthermore, according to Western defense experts, the air speed of a Palestinian missile fired from Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza is 200 meters per second; it covers the 1,800 meters from Beit Hanoun to the edge of Sderot in 9 seconds, whereas the Iron Dome’s interceptor needs 15 seconds to locate, determine the flight path; it could engage the incoming Qassam missile only 6 seconds after it explodes on target.
The Iron Dome’s interceptor is even less effective against Hizballah’s Katyusha rockets, which are launched from a greater distance in Lebanon; the Israeli system would need 30 seconds to intercept the incoming rocket which would slam into its target in 9 seconds.
The Israeli announcement does not specify whether the Tamir is to be launched by the Iron Dome or some other launcher.