Israel Needs the Phalanx
By Micah Halpern
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Ehud Barak, Israel's Defense Minister, returned to Israel from a visit to Washington, D.C. In an almost revolving door scenario, Barak arrived on the coattails of Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel's Chief of Staff.
They were there to talk about Iran.
Iran has been the most important topic in every conversation between Israel and the United States for the past eighteen months. Iran is the most critical challenge to Israel and the most significant factor impacting the region. Iran is the most problematic force in the world today according to the thinking of the most powerful country in the world today, the United States of America.
And then they discussed terror.
They discussed Hamas and Hezbollah generated terror. They discussed the role of Iran in sponsoring the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist organizations. Towards the end of that agenda item the United States and Israel probably shared insight and information on the status of world terror.
Finally, they discussed the Palestinians and the inability of the Palestinians to reign in terror even in the West Bank, let alone in Gaza.
Those were the discussions. Then came the crux of the visits. Then came the request.
Ashkenazi and Barak came to ask the United States for help in putting a stop to the acts of almost daily terror Israel is subjected to by Hamas. They came to brainstorm and to investigate. Israel is thinking of either borrowing or purchasing an American made weapon called the Phalanx CIWS Cannon. CIWS stands for Close-in Weapons System.
Both Barak and Ashkenazi are experienced in the military needs and demands of Israel. Like Ashkenazi, Barak once held the position of Israel's Chief of Staff. During his tenure as Israel's senior military official he was often touted as the most highly decorated officer in Israel's history. He was a prime minister once before and hopes to become his country's prime minister once again.
In Israel right now defense officials are frowning on buying the Phalanx or any new military equipment, for that matter. They want to concentrate all their investment energy and resources in one direction. They want to complete development on their own, new, weapon - a weapon that will protect Israel and be available for export around the world. It is called the Iron Dome.
The Iron Dome will probably meet all of Israel's expectations. The only thing the Iron Dome cannot meet is Israel's needs now. The Iron Dome system is not scheduled for completion until 2011. Israel needs help now.
Actually, the city of Sderot, the city most in need of protection from the daily onslaught of missiles, needed protection yesterday and the day before that and the months and months before that.
There is no doubt that the Phalanx will improve the defense of Sderot and of other communities that abut Gaza. But the Phalanx alone will not work. The Phalanx is nicknamed R-2 D-2 because it looks like the droid from Star Wars. This cannon system works like a hi-tech gatling gun. It shoots 3,000 to 4,500 twenty millimeter rounds a minute. It is designed to hit missiles and rockets and mortars that fly in low. Every United States Navy fighting ship is equipped with this system. The Phalanx uses two sets of radar, the first set tracks and the second, much more powerful and precise, guides the shot. There is also a Phalanx designed for the ground.
If the Phalanx was used together with an advanced radar system the people of Sderot would be able to sleep quietly at night - in their own beds, not in shelters. If the Phalanx was in Israel today the entire country would be safer. If the Phalanx was in Israel today Hamas would be one large step further away from destroying the lives and weakening the morale of Israel's citizens.
Buy it or borrow it. Go back to Washington. Israel needs protection now. And now, only the United States has the equipment capable of providing that protection. Some things are not worth waiting for.
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