Monday, September 12, 2011

The Missiles: From Nuisance to Strategic Threat

From Yediot Ahronot, Friday, February 18, 2011, by Ariella Ringel Hoffman:
  • "The third Lebanon war will be conducted both in the north and south, and joined by Syria, and all cities will be bombarded with heavy missile salvos," warns Uzi Rubin, twice-awarded Israel Defense Prize and world-renowned missile expert 
  • "The government is not doing what it should: it must deploy 'Iron Dome' batteries and protect what it can" 
  • But there is also consolation: "The missiles are the last card our enemies can pull. If we withstand them, we have won". 
  • From Nuisance to StrategicThreat: The Missile Attacks from the Gaza Strip on Southern Israel by Uzi Rubin was just published [in Hebrew] by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

If you ask Uzi Rubin –who was twice-awarded the Israel Defense Prize for his contribution to the "Arrow" project and the development of the "Ofek" reconnaissance satellite, who ran and supervised the "Homa" project, which coordinated Israel's defense capabilities against the ballistic threat, a world expert and one of Israel's leading experts on missiles, if not the leading expert – one of the first issues on the agenda of the incoming IDF Chief of Staff Benny Ganz should be the close examination of the defense of the state's civilians from the missiles threat, particularly in view of Nassrallah's blatant statement this week, but not only.

"From Nuisance to Strategic Threat" is the title Rubin chose for his recently completed study, ...which deals with the rocket attack from Gaza...Rubin claims ...that the present "trickle" of rocket fire is temporary, and is bound to be resumed, only this time it will spread deeper into Israel.

...There will be no agreement
Rubin, 73, has been in the field for over 50 years. An aeronautics engineer, considered one of the world's greatest experts on missiles and missile defense. He began his professional career in the IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries), where he held several senior positions. In the 1980s, he moved to the Ministry of Defense, where he directed one of Israel's most classified projects, and in the early 1990s was appointed head of the "Homa" (Wall) Administration. In 1999, he transferred for two years to the National Security Council, and returned, in advisory capacity, to another national project of the Ministry of Defense. Currently, Rubin serves as advisor on several defense projects.

...."...people, and not only in the Establishment, would rather not know what lies ahead. ... the other side will not fight the IDF ... they will fight the population instead. For twenty years, Syria has not purchased tanks or planes, and neither has Iran. In their military parades we see tanks dating back to the period of the Shah, or tanks they assembled themselves. Both invest in two things: missiles and anti-aircraft weapon systems. They will do all in their power to defeat us: hit our home front with missiles, and compel us to negotiate with them and accept their dictates".

And are we not preparing ourselves accordingly?
"Yes, but to an insufficient degree. The Third Lebanon War will not resemble even the Second Lebanon War. I can also claim with confidence that there will be a Third Lebanon War. Although I cannot predict when, whether in a week, if Lebanon enters the maelstrom, or in a month's time, or in four years hence. But war assuredly will break out, both in the north and the south".

"Yes. And the bad news is that Syria will join, too. In the next war these three forces will act conjointly".

Unless we sign a peace agreement with the Syrians?
"I do not think there is any chance for such an agreement. But I would rather not enter into this. I am a missile expert. I know as much as the next person about peace agreements, and as a layman I do not see it happening. I do not identify on either side a real interest in reaching such an agreement". 

Going back to the script for the next war.

"And then – as Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv, was briefed recently – Tel Aviv and all the other cities will be hit by a heavy salvo of missiles".

Despite the other side knowing that Israel's response will be strong?
"Yes, they will probably try to hit legitimate targets first, such as the Defense Ministry headquarters (the "Kiriya"), military bases, and airports, but – as Nasrallah said a year ago – it also depends on the response. If we attack the Dahiya quarter of Beirut, they will attack Tel Aviv. If we hit the Hariri Airport, they will hit Ben Gurion Airport. And if we hit their oil refineries, they will hit ours".

"I emphasize this since I think that Nasrallah's words should be taken very seriously, and since I constantly hear people say that we will retaliate forcefully if they only dare to hit us. I was recently at a meeting in which one of the participants reminded us that in 1973 the Syrians attacked the Air Force base in Ramat David, to which Israel responded by attacking the General Staff headquarters in Damascus, thereby putting an end to that move".

And how did you respond?
"I said that that was 1973, and we are now in 2011, and that even in 2006, when we reduced the Dahia quarter to dust, the other side did not cease its fire. On the contrary, they increased the rate of fire and range of their missiles. And we have not even mentioned yet the Goldstone reports awaiting us should we operate in this way again".

How do you explain this?
"By differences in national ethos. Their ethos is to embrace death. They consider us weak, and make the grave mistake of confusing a vociferous democracy with weakness. The problem is that their military doctrine instructs them to continue firing whatever the situation. Holding on and continuing the fire – for them is victory".

..."It would be a kind of war we do not know. Our entire routine might fall apart. An attack of a power station, for example, could disable the fuel pumps, and then what will army vehicles use for fuel?  How will the High Command function if Tel Aviv takes a hit?"

"... Israel has indeed developed integrated defense systems: 'Arrow 3', aimed at intercepting higher altitude missiles, 'Arrow 2', designed to intercept missiles within the next altitude range, 'David's Sling' system for medium-range and 'Iron Dome' for short-range missiles".

Then there is a response.
"It is not enough. The current response is appropriate for the threats recognized twenty years ago, which have been insufficiently updated since. ...".

The Defense budget today is already 55 billion shekels. Where will you find the money to cover the costs for all the needs?
"All the publications on the cost of active defense measures are grossly exaggerated. There was mention that a single 'Iron Dome' battery cost 150 million dollars, or that the 'Arrow' project cost ten billion dollars. While I cannot specify exact numbers, these figures are nowhere near the real costs...."....

What can you say, to conclude, on a positive note?
"That our foes tried to beat us using conventional armies in the War of Independence, the Six Day War, and the Yom Kippur War – and failed. They tried to use external terror against us, in airports, at sea and in the air – and failed. They tried to hit us by using domestic terrorism –the attacks on the Coast Road, in the towns of Kiriyat Shmona, and Maalot – and failed. There were two uprisings (intifadas) and suicide terrorists – and we overcame these, too.

"The optimistic news is that the missiles are the last card our enemies can pull. Their last threat over us. It will probably not end in one round, but if we withstand this attack, we have won".

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