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Air Defense: Israeli Ray Guns In Gaza
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July 31, 2008: Israel is desperate to get some kind of anti-missile system in place to protect against rockets being fired out of Gaza by Hamas. Right now, a top candidate is the U.S. land mobile version of the Phalanx anti-ship-missile weapon. This system, called "Centurion" was originally developed four years ago, as "C-RAM". That's why the Israelis want it now, because similar systems developed in Israel will take several years to perfect, and angry voters will not give politicians that much time. Centurion is ready now.

Centurion is basically the Phalanx naval gun system with new software that enables it to take data from its own, and other, radar systems, and shoot down just about any kind of artillery shell or rocket within range (about 2,000 meters). It uses high explosive 20mm shells, that detonate near the target, spraying it with fragments. By the time these fragments reach the ground, they are generally too small and slow to injure anyone. At least that's been the experience in Iraq.

The original Phalanx used 20mm depleted uranium shells, to slice through incoming missiles. Phalanx fires shells at the rate of 75 per second. Another advantage of Centurion, is that it makes a distinctive noise when firing, warning people nearby that a mortar or rocket attack is underway, giving people an opportunity to duck inside if they are out and about.

The first C-RAM/Centurion was sent to Iraq in late 2006, to protect the Green Zone (the large area in Baghdad turned into an American base). It was found that C-RAM could knock down 70-80 percent of the rockets and mortar shells fired within range of its cannon. In the last two years, Centurion systems in Iraq have intercepted over a hundred rockets or mortar shells aimed at the Green Zone. Not bad, since it only took about a year to develop C-RAM. A Mobile Centurion system, which can cover an area about four kilometers wide, costs $15 million. The manufacturer will be turning out four a month.

The Israelis are also intrigued with a version of Centurion that uses a laser, in place of the 20mm cannon. This solid state laser has less range (about a thousand meters) than the 20mm cannon, but can take down more targets in a short time. Israel has been observed testing the laser itself along the Gaza security fence, to detonate explosives Hamas has planted on their side of the fence, to be used against Israeli troops who periodically enter to kill or capture terrorist leaders.

The short range of the laser Centurion is not a problem, because there are only a few places (small towns) in southern Israel that need to be protected from most Hamas rockets.

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