The Heritage Foundation

Backgrounder #543 on Middle East

November 4, 1986

November 4, 1986 | Backgrounder on Middle East

High Dividends from a U.S. -Israeli Partnership on StrategicDefense


(Archived document, may contain errors)

543 November 4, 1986 HIGH DIVIDENDS FROM A U.S.-ISRAELI PARTNERSHIP ON STRATEGIC DEFENSE INTRODUCTION The Israeli decision to participat e in research on the Strategic Never before has a Defense Initiative (SDI) promises to be the most important project ever formally undertaken between the two nations joint U.S.-Israeli military project offered so many strategic technological, economic, an d political benefits for both countries.

The U.S. stands to gain not only a stronger ally in the Middle East but a much improved technology base for the SDI program- stands to gain a stronger defense capability and access to the technical and economic bene fits of participating in the world's most advanced technology research program Israel Specifically, building an Israeli defense against Soyiet-supplied SCUD-B SS-12, SS-21, and SS-22 surface-to-surface missiles deployed in Syria would serve U.S. interests by strengthening Israel's defenses, which should help stabilize the Middle East's military balance. It would benefit SDI by calling on Israeli expertise in laser technology, aero-mechanics, computer software, microelectronics and propulsion systems. It wo u ld accelerate the SDI program by taking advantage of the rapid weapons acquisition process in Israel. It would create technological spinoffs for conventional armaments that would improve Israel's ability to coordinate its military forces and stop attacks b y enemy tanks and heavy armored vehicles. And it would stimulate the Israeli economy by imparting to Israel some of the estimated 5 trillion to $15 trillion commercial value of SDI high To reap these benefits, it is vital that the U.S.-Israeli technology spinoffs cooperation on SDI be allowed to develop fully.

Administration should Thus the Reagan 1) vigorously oppose congressional efforts to reduce allied 2) establish a U.S.-Israeli working group as soon as possible to participation in the SDI research pr ogram accelerate research and development on an anti-tactical ballistic missile (ATBM) system for Israel: and 3) begin working with Israel to upgrade the Israeli air defense system around air bases, mobilization centers, and cities as a first step toward a more comprehensive defense system against tactical ballistic missiles.

THE TACTICAL BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT TO ISRAEL When Ronald Reagan unveiled hi's Strategic Defense Initiative in March 1983, he offered U.S. allies the opportunity to participate in t he project. Three years later, in May 1986, with the unanimous support of the Israeli Cabinet, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed a Memorandum of Understanding with U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger signaling a go ahead for Israeli in volvement in the program. This prompt Israeli response derives in large part from the growing threat to Israel from ballistic missiles armed with conventional, chemical, and nuclear warheads.

Arab states confronting Israel have accumulated weaponry that Is rael's chief adversary is Syria, totals well over $100 billion which boasts Soviet-supplied SCUD-B SS-12, SS-21, and SS-22 surface-to-surface missiles non-nuclear warheads-can destroy Israeli military control centers storage depots, and airfields almost w i thout warning. Virtually all of Israel's airbases north of Jerusalem would be vulnerable to attack and could be neutralized for up to 24 hours. This would allow Syria to overrun Israeli forces on the Golan Heights These missiles-even when carrying Israel c urrently has tep airbases potentially vulnerable to Syrian short-range missiles. Ten direct hits by either a chemically armed or conventionally armed SS-21 could completely incapacitate a base. The Syrians now possess about two dozen SS-21s. In the near f u ture, the Soviets could supply Syria with enough missiles to knock out all of Israel's bases with a first strike 1. For a detailed analysis of theSyrian missile threat to Israel airbases and major cities, see Seth W. Carus The Threat to Israel From Tactic al Ballistic Missiles testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Strategic Nuclear Forces, January 30 1986.

The Syrian SS-21 short-range ballistic missiles have a range of 75 miles and an accuracy reported to be within 100 yards strike major Israeli popul ation centers A surprise attack by these missiles would seriously disrupt the call-up of reserves, the lifeline of the Israel Defense Forces. Israel believes, moreover, that Syria will soon receive the SS-23 with greater accuracy and more than four times the range of the SS-21.

Israel They can It could hit almost any point within The use of surface-to-surface missiles in the Iran-Iraq war has One of Israel's most pressing needs thus has become to revealed to Israeli officials the vulnerability of populatio n centers develop technologies to counter this threat. That SDI offers a promise to remedy this vulnerability is understood by the Israelis.

THE ADVANTAGES OF ISRAELI PARTICIPATION IN SDI The U.S. invitation to its allies to participate in SDI stated that the program will '!examine technologies with potential against shorter-range ballistic missiles likely to emerge from SDI research will be for anti-tactical ballistic missiles. SDI technologies thus could enable Israel to defend itself rather than rely u p on the risky strategies of deterrence by threat of retaliation or preemptive attack. The development of an Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile System (ATBM) or a theater defense system offers a near-tern deployment option for Israel. Interceptor weapons such a s kinetic energy kill systems, ground-launched hypervelocity interceptor missiles, Rail guns, laser beams, particle beamszand various other intercept technologies are already being tested SS-21, SS-22, and SS-23 missiles could employ a wide range of curre n t technologies since the trajectories of the missiles are lower, and the speeds are slower than those for ICBMs One of the first technologies Defense against What Kind of System Upgrading existing air defense systems to meet the short-term ballistic missi l e threat would be the first step in creating a theater defense system. Newer technologies, however, offer great promise. An ideal candidate for an Israeli defense against the Syrians SS-21 is the U.S. Navy's '!Aegis" acquisition radar deployed with a two- s tage 2. Israel is reported to be able to deploy a ground-based free electron laser weapon system capable of intercepting ballistic missiles as part of an ATBM system during the 1990s. The system could use a single system to defend the entire country and w ould rely upon ground-based relay/fighting mirrors instead of space-based systems. Aviation Week and Sr>ace Technoloav, October 20, 1986, p. 27 3hypervelocity missile being developed by Rafael Corporation in Israel.

Many of the major components for the mis sile have already been flight tested. Also promising are a modified version of the U.S. Army's lPatriotl' air defense missile and the French "Aster" anti-ballistic missile, which could engage warheads inside the atmosphere.

A point defense at a lower alti tude could be composed of proved off the shelf" anti-ballistic missile technologies, which might also include Patriot surface-to-air missiles. Newly devised l1Swarm Jets hypervelocity Rail guns, lasers, and various other ground-based interceptors could se rve as a second layer to catch missiles in the terminal phase of their trajectories that permeate the higher altitude dezense.

Each layer when utilized alone would have an 80 percent reliability rate, and when combined, could produce a 96 percent reliability rate. Syria, therefore, would need to target 500 missiles per base, instead of ten missiles, to,guarantee destruction of ea c h base To wipe out all Israeli bases then would require 5,000 SS-21s Logistics, costs, and political and strategic constraints make this an almost impossible number for Syria to deploy. Without SDI, the Syrians now require only 200 SS-21s to achieve the s a me results. L Enhancina Israeli Conventional Warfare CaDabilitv SDI technologies should spill over considerably on Israel's conventional capabilities. Weapon designs and battlefield management systems, for instance, could be upgraded via cooperation with t he U.S in developing and sharing such state-of-the-art technologies as electronics, optics, computers, and energy. Domestic defense production enhanced ljy SDI contracts and shared expertise will contribute to Israeli self-sufficiency and the development o f advanced weapons systems necessary for Israel's survival. Writes Avram Schweitzer, an Israeli journalist for the widely respected Ha'Aretz newspaper: "A system that can make out, identify, hone-in-on, and destroy an object less than 100 feet long, movin g at near Mach 1 speed at a distance of 10,000 miles, is essentially a [ballistic missiles defense] system, the application of which could do to the foot soldier, the artillery piece, the tank, or the helicopter, what its space-progenitor is supposed to do to strategic missiles. To be in on this kind of technology...could mean the purchase of peace for Israel or more realistically, the imposition, by non-aggressive means, of a permanent state of non-belligerence along its borders.

The Israelis are already r esearching the possibilities of converting offshoots of SDI hypervelocity Rail guns into weapons capable of being mounted on tanks and armored vehicles. Because of 3. Midstream, June/July 1985, pp. 6, 7 L 4SDI, Israel will be in a better position to updat e aviation electronics and keep combat command and control systems close to state-of-the-art. The 1982 Lebanese conflict demonstrated the importance of these components for military success during Israel's confrontation with Syria.

Reducina the Likelihood of a Future Arab/Israeli Conflict Unable to match the numbers of men and weapons fielded by its adversaries, Israel has had to rely on its qualitative advantage. But because of economic restraints, and the influx of Soviet, British French, and even Americ a n weaponry to its adversaries, Israel's qualitative deterrent has eroded seriously. Syrian short-range missiles, for example, soon may be able to destroy Israel's fighter aircraft on the tarmac in a surprise attack counter such an imminent attack from sur f ace-to-surface missiles would be by a preemptive strike against the missiles before they can be fired. Such a preemptive strike, of course, could ignite a new war in the Middle East. SDI, however, could enable Israel to regain its qualitative edge and thu s be able to counter an impending missile strike without having to take preemptive action. Such a capability to deter Syrian aggression would not only enhance Israeli security immeasurably, but stabilize the entire region as well Israel's only way to Insur ance for Israel's Reserve Svstem The bulk of the Israeli Defense Forces consists of reserves.

Israel's standing armed forces number 174,0

00. The reserves bring IDF to around 500,00O--and most of this can be done with'in 72 hours.

Israel's strained economy, however, cannot bear the cost of a constant reserves mobilization.

An ATBM system for Israel would help protect such Israeli mobilization capabilities as storage depots, roads, and supply lines which could seriously disrupt the call of the reserves. M oreover by providing Israel defensive cover for calling up the reserves, an ATBM system would give the Israelis more time to decide and prepare for mobilization.

Strenathenina the U.S.-Israeli Relationshb The U.S.-Israeli relationship will grow as the SDI program expands. Shared research and development between industries and applications'of weaponry in the conventional arena will build a new array of relationships. This could lead to heightened strategic cooperation beyond anything envisioned at present U .S. allies that have accepted the President's offer. Great Britain and West Germany already have begun discussions on hybrid technological ventures for theater defenses. With an SDI role, Israel Israel also will benefit from SDI relationships with those o ther I 5could assume a de facto allied membership by helping to guard.the southern flank.of NATO.

Economic Benefits U.S. federal budget constraints could restrict future U.S. aid to Israel. Possible aid drops, however, could be offset by SDI contracts awar ded to Israeli defense industries. The Pentagon already has signed three contracts with Israel. Israeli research facilities and firms already have submitted some 150 science and technology proposals including a project for the study of the basic features o f regional anti-tactical ballistic missiles systems) to the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative Organization. Since high-tech products now account for 40 percent of Israel's industrial exports, the rapid development of SDI-related industries will boost econ o mic growth sources, communication devices, medicines, and thousands of consumer products. SDI also will channel research funds to Israeli universities and will help revitalize the Israeli scientific community Technological spinoffs could include new compu t er systems, energy Israeli defense-related industries will receive contracts strengthening strategic and economic cooperation between Israel and the United States. Major General David Ivry (Ret former Chairman Israel Aircraft Industries, confirmed that Is r aeli industry is committed to playing a significant role in the SDI program high-tech firms and organizations as Ivry's, Technion, Tadiran Rafael, Elbit, El Op, Elisra, and the Sofek Nuclear Research Centre will be the likely recipients of the initial SDI subcontracts Such of New opportunities in high-tech jobs surely could prevent Israeli scientists from leaving the country to seek opportunities in the West.

In fact, an expanded high-tech industrial base in Israel may serve to be an attractive incentive f or Jewish scientists abroad to move to Israel. In a sense, the economic importance of SDI to Israel is equally as important as the strategic benefits toward ensuring Israel's survival.

ISRAELI CONTRIBUTIONS TO SDI Israel can contribute substantially to the SDI effort.

Technoloaical Innovations and Battlefield Experience Israel leads the world,in the share of its population employed in research and development. There are approximately 300 engineers and scientists per every 10,000 people in Israel. Israel e xcels in the development of lasers, aero-mechanics, computer software, and 6 4 I propulsion systems. Israel's vast battlefield experience, meanwhile, can be of great value to SDI. Example: the development of such U.S weaponry as the F-16 Fighting Falcon i n terceptor aircraft was enhanced by lessons Israel learned during the Lebanon war remotely piloted yehicles (drones) to command, control, and communications C This could enhance development of SDI The Israeli Defense Forces' battle experience ranges from A Catalyst for the SDI Proaram Because of the precarious nature of the Middle East, the Israelis carlnot afford long research and development time spans to move weaponry from the drawing board to the field. The Israelis team the military with scientists to conceive new technologies quickly. The Israeli Weapons Acquisition Cycle, therefore, provides a quick reaction capability and an emergency "surqe" production capability.

This could catalyze the entire SDI program by accelerating its pace.

The Israeli military/industrial partnership has advantages over the American. Since the Israeli military is small, it has a more fluid organizational structure, and there is more room for individual initiative in weapons proposals. Israel, moreover, need not contend with a strong anti-national security political network. Israel's historical .experience dictates that military strength is the best insurance for survival.

CONCLUSION Deployment of a ballistic missile defense system in Israel is feasible and ne cessary An SDI system in Israel should prevent its adversaries from contemplating attack. Such a system also could guard against a conflict arising from an accidental launch or conventionally armed shorter-range missiles A joint U.S.-Israeli project, more o ver will not only improve the SDI program with Israeli technical expertise but produce important technical spinoffs for conventional armaments and it could stimulate economic growth in Israel by encouraging the development of marketable high-technology sp inoffs.

U.S.-Israeli cooperation on SDI will set a good example in participation for Western Europe Finally For both Israel and the United States, the Strategic Defense Initiative is an opportunity and insurance policy for survival.

Recent congressional e fforts to restrict SDI contracts to allies was vigorously and successfully opposed by SDI supporters in Congress and by the Reagan Administration. The Administration must continue to 7-oppose amendments designed at reducing allied support for SDI by under mining competitive bidding on projects.

To facilitate research on a tactical bailistic missile defense system for Israel, the U.S. should form a working group with Israel and NATO allies to accelerate research and expedite cooperative development not only of an ATBM system but improved air defense systems as well. Establishing ATBM defenses in Israel and in Western Europe would greatly reduce the chances of a successful preemptive attack against Israeli and NATO forces. This would, in turn, deter aggressio n and thereby help preserve the peace in two regions of vital interest to the U.S SDI cooperation serves the interests of both the U.S. and Israel.

It strengthens U.S. and Israeli ties as well as the SDI program itself. But clearly cooperation is most impo rtant for Israel. For the ability to defend itself against a growing Syrian short-range ballistic missile threat may some day be necessary for Israel's very survival.

Prepared ;for The Heritage Foundation by Charles Brooks an official of the Washington-based National Jewish Coalition I a-

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