Although Israel is desperate for a
weapon that will defend key targets from Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza, last
year they turned down the one system known to work. That's because the system
is foreign. It's a modified version of the U.S. Phalanx ship defense system.
The Israeli government is still under tremendous pressure to do something, and
they don't want to invade and take over Gaza.
already two Israeli anti-rocket systems in the works, but
it will be several years before these are available for service. Meanwhile,
Hamas has greatly increased the number of rockets and mortar shells fired into
southern Israel. It's up to several hundred a month.
ago, some Israelis noted that the American and British were already using an
effective anti-rocket system; C RAM. This is a modified version of the U.S.
Navy Phalanx system, which was
originally designed to protect warships from anti-ship missiles. As originally
designed, you turned Phalanx on whenever the ship was likely to have an
anti-ship missile fired at it. The Phalanx radar can spot incoming missiles out
to about 5,000 meters, and the 20mm cannon is effective out to about 2,000
meters. With incoming missiles moving a up to several hundred meters a second,
you can see why Phalanx is set to automatic. There's not much time for human
intervention, which is why the Phalanx has to be turned on and set to
automatically detect and shoot at incoming missiles. But weapons engineers
discovered that Phalanx could take out incoming 155mm artillery shells as well.
This capability is what led to C-RAM. Now Israel is bringing one of these
system to Israel, to see how well it performs in actually defending against Palestinian
2003, there have been two major Phalanx mods. In one, the Phalanx was adapted
to use on land, to shoot down incoming
rockets. This was done by using a larger artillery spotting radar, which
directs Phalanx to fire at incoming
mortar shells and rockets. Not all the incoming stuff is hit, but nearly 80
percent of it is, and every little bit helps. The second mod is for shipboard
use, and changes the software so the Phalanx can be used against small boats,
especially those of the suicide bomber variety.
ago, Israel examined C RAM for possible use in defending northern Israel
against another Hizbollah rocket attack. That's where Israelis apparently
became aware of how C RAM could be used against Palestinian attacks using more
primitive rockets. For defending
northern Israel, C-RAM lacked the range to cover a long border against a
variety of rocket types. But the home made Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza
were another matter. Then, about a year ago, Britain bought a C RAM system to
protect its air base in southern Iraq. A
C-RAM Phalanx system, which can cover about four kilometers of border, costs $8
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 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 C-RAM, 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.
C-RAM 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. Not bad, since it only took about a year to develop C-RAM. Meanwhile,
another version, using a high-powered laser, instead of the 20mm gun, is in
several small targets it wants to defend in southern Israel. The most frequent
target is the town of Sderot. Since 2001, over 2,000 Kassam (homemade)
Palestinian rockets have been fired at Sderot. Ten people have been killed, and
over fifty injured. The Israeli army has developed a radar system that provides
10-15 seconds warning, which is enough time to duck into a shelter. But Sderot
only has 80 bomb shelters, most of them built 20-30 years ago and in need of
repair. If you want to reduce the casualties in Sderot (about one dead or
wounded per 30-40 rockets fired), you need to reduce the number of rockets
landing. One C RAM system can defend an
area about four kilometers in diameter. This makes it possible to defend Sderot
with one or two Phalanx guns, and one early warning radar. There's also a power
plant and air force base in the south that could eventually be within range of
larger Kassam rockets. One or two C RAM Phalanx guns at each would greatly
reduce the risk of a Kassam doing any damage.
nearly 900 Phalanx systems in use, including some on Israeli warships. Most
have not gotten these software mods, that enable the cannot to knock down
rockets and shells, as well as incoming anti-ship missiles.