Monday, October 6, 2008

Developments in the Middle East

The United States deployed a X-band radar in the Negev desert in southern Israel at the end of September. With its range of 2,000km and its ability to target the warheads of long- or medium-range missiles in space the radar helps Israel to create a layered missile defense capability. Israel’s current Green Pine radar can track missiles within 800 to 1,000km. The new radar give Israel a vital extra 60-70 seconds to react if Iran fired a missile, Israeli military sources told the Time magazine. The X-band is operated by a permanent 120-strong US Army staff. The deployment is not welcomed unanimously. Time magazine reports that

One senior Israeli defense official said that while the U.S. radar would boost Israel’s defenses against potential Iranian air or missile attacks, the United States could also use it to spy on the sensitive military activities of its ally.
One top official complained: "It's a like a pair of golden handcuffs on Israel." Linked to the X-band radar are also Israeli plans to place two radar antennae near its Dimona nuclear reactor.

One “side-effect” of the radar is that it enables the U.S. to monitor aircraft in the skies over southern Russia.

Israel is not the only country in the Middle East that works on its (anti-) missile capabilities. Saudi Arabia has requested 250 AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles from the United States. In addition to that the Kingdom has also 84 Sidewinder captive air training missiles, 12 Sidewinder dummy air training missiles as well as containers and spare parts on its wishlist.

Turkey is another country that has accelerated its various missile projects. On September 25 the country's military procurement agency issued two separate tenders for the acquisition of low and medium altitude air defense missile systems, namely the Turkish Low Altitude Air Defense Missile System (T-LALADMIS) and the Turkish Medium Altitude Air Defense Missile System (T-MALADMIS). Turkey also plans to purchase up to 12 long-range air and missile defense systems (T-LORAMIDS) at a cost of $4 billion, a project for which US, Chinese and Israeli companies are competing. In order to fill gaps in its defense system, Turkey plans to acquire different types of missile systems: Russia's Rosoboronexport will provide Turkey with 80 Kornet-E medium-range anti-tank weapon systems (MRAWS) and 800 missiles, in a contract worth around $100 million. Turkey also intends to procure 107 US-built Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM).

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