Missile defence: passive or active, this is the question

At this point in time, this may seem a problem only Israel faces. But many developments in other parts of the world including Europe, point to the possible wider scope of it - defending civil populations against missiles and rockets, launched by countries or terror organizations.


If you have access to intelligence people that follow the intentions and capabilities of countries like Iran and terror organizations like Al Qaeda and its numerous “affiliations”, the threat will become very real. If you don’t have such access, you may be lulled until something happens.


Israel was attacked by ballistic missile launched from Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Israel has been attacked by rockets from Lebanon and Gaza. Understanding that every future war will involve heavy salvos of missiles and rockets, Israel has stepped up its efforts to gain a fully operational three tier defence system against those threats.


With assistance from the USA, Rafael, one of Israel’s defence industries in cooperation with Raytheon, is developing the David’s Sling Weapon System.


The David’s Sling Weapon System is aimed at defending the Israeli populated areas against medium range rockets.

Rafael has developed the Iron Dome system aimed at intercepting short range rockets. Two units are already operational and ready for deployment.


The third layer will be composed of the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Arrow-2 fully operational system aimed at intercepting long range ballistic missiles and the Arrow-3, currently under development. This completely new missile will have longer range and a kinetic kill capability, crucial when the attacking missile is equipped with a non conventional warhead.


While the three layered defence systems are being built, many are raising doubts about the logic behind their inception.

These people, placed in some key positions in the Israeli defence establishment, say that the three layered defence system  “does not make sense”. They say that in attrition war between homemade rockets and even series production rockets that are very cheap on the market the winner is obvious. They claim that the “passive defence” approach that is behind the idea of the three layered system is twisted.


“Israel has the means to defend itself against rockets and missiles using offensive methods and not defensive ones,” one of the most active critics said recently.


The critics, and they are not a few obsessive types, say that a country should not base its national defence on systems that cannot match the availability of the threat, meaning the proportion between the defensive missiles in store, with the number of rockets and missiles that the enemy can launch.


At this point the voices of the critics are faint and it seems that the government is continuing with its efforts to have the operational three layered defence system in place as soon as possible. But the reality in the Middle East may change very fast, and the key is as always in the hand of the politicians.


While there is no sign that someone in key positions really thinks of an alternative that will not involve the never ending development of Arrow-4 , David’s Sling 2 and Iron dome advanced , some voices show signs that in the future the trend might change in some degree.


The ongoing effort to complete the three layered defence system is huge. But for the first time voices are heard that Israel with its very advanced airforce should think of ways to put a fast end to any attempt to paralyze the country with salvos of rockets and missiles.


The critics say that the threat of rockets in the hands of non-governmental organizations should also point to a solution based on the offensive means a country has and not on building an invisible defensive bubble above it.


They immediately add that the proliferation of the easy accessed rockets and missiles, makes the problem one that may be faced by other countries and therefore the solution should be offensive. “The world should not go into a never ending race between the ballistic threats and the ways to counter them. This is what strong airforces and other forces are for. The change should be in the heads of the politicians that run the countries,” one of the more strong Israeli critics said recently.












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