Israeli defence sources believe that Iraq would launch a salvo of Scud tactical ballistic missiles (TBM) at Israel in response to a US attack on Saddam Hussein's regime.

Israel's analysis suggests Baghdad would launch such an attack in an attempt to swamp Israel's defences and increase the Scud hit rate. Heavily populated areas of the country are protected by the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Arrow anti-TBM system.

According to sources, Iraq has hidden a number of Al-Hussein-improved Scud missiles - a UK report last week on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction believes Baghdad has 20 such missiles.

It is expected that Iraq's TBMs would be a key target in the early stages of any US assault, but that some could still be launched.

The Israeli air force has deployed two Arrow systems and is intensively training the crews, using the weapon's built-in simulation capability. This uses the Arrow subsystems, but does not interfere with the system's readiness.

The combination of launch detection by US Defence Support Programme satellites and Arrow's Elta Green Pine long-range detection radar will give Israel a 3-5min warning.

Meanwhile, the Israeli air force is expressing doubt that reconnaissance microsatellites proposed by IAI and Rafael are cost-effective.

A senior Israeli air force source says microsatellites are under preliminary evaluation, but that their potential is not fully understood. The source adds, however, that microsatellites' short life-cycle and the limited payload place doubt over their efficiency.

Rafael is proposing to modify its Black Sparrow air-launched target as a launcher for the proposed 50-80kg (110-176lb) satellites, while IAI is also offering a microsatellite programme. IAI's MLM division is evaluating the launch of micro-satellites from a transport aircraft.

Source: Flight International