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« A Small Victory | Main | Prescience »

The Scorpion's Sting

This primer may offer some reasons that Israel isn't being more aggressive with respect to Syria. They need to come up with a way to neutralize these things.

Posted by Rand Simberg at July 17, 2006 02:02 PM
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Hmmm. I can easily see why Israel is so interested in tactical directed energy weapons. The recent announcements by Northrop explicitly mentions Israel.

So I wouldn't be surprised if THEL/THEL 2.0 gets deployed along side PAC-3 in a very near future to provide a multi-mode, in depth defense.

But even more interesting is the possibility of an ABL like system, perhaps deployed in a C-130 airframe (with which IDF has a lot of experience). I'm just speculating here, but a pair of C-103/ABL's protected by CAP, circling over Israeli territory 50 miles in, with 4-5 more pairs sitting on the ground loaded and ready to go, could probably keep up with the Syrian launch rates indefinitely.

Posted by Ben Reytblat at July 18, 2006 08:58 AM

The difficulty, I believe, with the scenario you suggest is that you have to ensure the agents are completely destroyed. Otherwise, the "weapon" is still delivered, just in a different location. I suppose that intercepting early in the boost phase would move the problem to the enemy, but the systems Ben is suggesting would probably not be capable of doing that. I don't think a C-130 based ABL would have the line of sight necessary for a boost phase intercept, and a land-based directed energy weapon definitely wouldn't. Thoughts anyone?

Posted by Sabre at July 18, 2006 12:27 PM

I think the ground-based layer would be useful against the short range FROGs and SS-21's. And as a defense of last resort. Basically, the higher you splat the warhead, the lower the concentration of the agent by the time it reaches ground.

Also, given the local weather patterns, much of the fine mists would get blown back over Syria and Jordan, and, possibly even Iraq.

Finally, if you can blow up the missles before the fuel is burned up, the fireball is likely to neutralize at least some of the agent. IIRC from my NBC Recon class (30 years ago :-), in the presence of heat CW agents decompose readily into less toxic substances and BW agents might be partially sterilized. Anthrax is pretty sturdy, but other bugs might not be. So the sooner you can stick a torch to them, the better off you are.

The airborne layer might be able reach out far enough to touch the missle in boost phase. Our ABL-1 is intended that way, and it might have to reach further then the Israelis.

Finally, the thin dry air in the desert/mountain terrain in that area might make a decent medium for directed energy weapons, thus extending their reach compared to, let's say, Europe or the Pacific (I'm totally guessing here).

Posted by Ben Reytblat at July 18, 2006 01:46 PM


Hmmm...this may be the strongest argument in relation to the original article. It at least introduces a factor for Syria to consider: namely, do they risk collateral damage to their Arab brethren? I've not gone back to check the article, but I didn't recall any mention of potential collateral damage in the original article as a factor which Syria would have to consider. I would think this would be a factor even without some type of missile defense. Israel is a pretty small country.

Posted by Sabre at July 18, 2006 02:21 PM they risk collateral damage to their Arab brethren?

It's never bothered them in the past. Why would it now? They'd just blame it on the Jews.

Posted by Rand Simberg at July 18, 2006 02:42 PM

It's never bothered them in the past. Why would it now? They'd just blame it on the Jews.

...well OK, I guess there's that!

Posted by Sabre at July 18, 2006 02:52 PM

Israel has nukes, if Syria used Chemical weapons, Israel
would up the ante.

Posted by anonymous at July 19, 2006 04:26 PM

"...Israel has nukes, if Syria used Chemical weapons, Israel would up the ante"

True, and that is why Israel can't afford to allow Iran to create a nuclear umbrella for itself and for Syria. Because once that happens, the deterrence equadtion changes from:

"If you try CBW just once, we WILL nuke you into the stone age, no ifs, ands, or buts"


"We now have to make sure that we have enough warheads, missles, launch facilities, and staff (modulo reasonable reliability factor) that we can ride out a first strike that includes sustained conventional and CBW attack on our launch facilities and STILL nuke both Syria and Iran into the stone age" - which is a much more expensive proposition.

Net-net: no way will Israel allow the mullahs to have even one bomb.

Posted by Ben Reytblat at July 20, 2006 09:48 AM

One more thing: having an operational, effective, well protected, multi-mode, multi-layer missle defense system then becomes a significant peace protector. It protects the deterrent value of the nuclear force, making a surprise first strike a useless option. Thus Isreali interest in such a system.

At this point it's a race: do the Israelis get their defenses up before the mullahs get their nuke? My bet is on the Israelis. In any technology race I'll take them over pretty much everyone else in the region put together, and still give points, all other things being equal.

Unfortunately, all other things are not equal. I understand why the North Koreans are helping these losers. What I don't get is why the Russian jokers don't seem to have figured out that they're helping their own sworn enemies. I never thought that Putin was as stupid as Stalin.

Posted by Ben Reytblat at July 20, 2006 09:58 AM

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