Israel's massive aerial bombardment over the Gaza Strip in the early hours of the Gaza War saved the US base in the Negev from a Hamas rocket attack initiated by Tehran, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources reveal.
The American facility, where the advanced Forward-Based X-band Transportable (FBX-T) anti-missile radar system is kept, is located in Israel's big Nevatim air base, east of the key Negev town of Beersheba. The radar, which can track the path of any missile fired in the Middle East, worked hard during the 22 days of Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip, feeding its command with accurate early information on the trajectories of Hamas missiles fired into southern Israel.
The same system also relayed messages to Washington on Israel's exact aerial movements in the course of the campaign.
This was the first time in the annals of Israel-Arab conflicts that the United States knew what was going on in the battlefield without drawing on electronic tracking devices outside Israel.
The FBX-T mobile radar system was deployed at the Israeli Air Force' Negev base in November 2008, less than two months before the Gaza conflict erupted. It came with 120 US officers and men detached from EUCOM, the US European Command as technical operational teams.
The site of the American system and the quarters of the US servicemen are fenced in and segregated from the rest of the Nevatim base. It is off-limits to Israeli personnel. A US weaponry perimeter defense team armed with weapons systems guards the compound.
Hamas rockets missed the US Forward-Based X-band radar
Manufactured by Raytheon Co, the FBX-T is capable of tracking small objects in space at high resolution. It has been described by US officials as able to pick up the trail of an object the size of a baseball from 4,600 km away – or an Iranian Shehab-3 ballistic missile from the moment of its launch and along its 11 minutes to impact.
Its presence gives the Israeli Arrow II anti-missile defense missile an extra five minutes to respond and intercept an invading missile.
Our military sources report that, eventually, the FBX-T Negev base will link Israel to the US missile shield to be installed in Poland and the Czech Republic. Because of its high importance, at least 10 of Hamas's armory of Grad 122mm Grad rockets, seemingly aimed at Beersheba, had been preset by Iranian engineers to hit this high-profile US military asset, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources reveal. Fortunately, the early Israel Air Force bombardment, as we reported before, knocked those rockets and their launchers out in the first four minutes of the Gaza war.
On Jan. 18, the day after Israel declared its unilateral ceasefire and two days before Hamas followed suit, its rocket unit made one last effort to hit the American facility. A volley of three Grad rockets was launched from the Gaza Strip, landing and exploding on empty ground west of Beersheba, without triggering the town's alarm sirens.
When a spokesman of the Israeli Homeland Command was asked what went wrong with the sirens supposed to have alerted the city of a quarter of a million to their danger, he answered the rockets were not aimed at the city.
He got that right.