Daily Israel Report

IDF Prepares to Deploy 'Magic Wand'

The IDF is in the final stages of laying the groundwork to deploy its long-range missile defense system in central Israel.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 10/26/2011, 5:09 PM

Magic Wand Test
Magic Wand Test
Flash 90

The IDF is in the final stages of laying the groundwork to deploy the "Magic Wand" missile defense system in central Israel.

The move to deploy the system comes on the heels of Israel's deployment of the Iron Dome missile defense system in the south, which has provided efficient, but limited protection from rockets fired by terrorists operating in Hamas-run Gaza into southern Israel.

If it works as advertised, Magic Wand will be able to operate in inclement weather and will fire intercepting missiles capable of changing course mid-flight. Whereas Iron Dome is intended to intercept short range rockets, Magic Wand is designed to intercept long-range missiles fired from Gaza and Lebanon.

According to security officials, Hamas and Hezbollah possess medium-range missiles capable of striking at Israel's central regions, which could potentially be intercepted by Magic Wand. The use of such rockets, should another conflict erupt, is considered a near certainty by most defense analysts.

The cost of such units, however, is potentially prohibitive. A single Magic Wand projectile can reach up to $1 million. Defense official argue the financial damage of a single rocket not intercepted by the system could easily outstrip that.

But critics of systems like Magic Wand say, despite their proven operational success, that they are tactically defensive weapons which only mitigate - rather than remove - the strategic threat posed by stockpiles of rockets in terrorist’s hands.

Concerns have also been raised that reliance on such systems, rather than aggressively pursuing the elimination of strategic threats, presents a weak strategic posture and could lead to complacency among Israel's political echelons vis-a-vis Israel's necessary strategic depth in terms of maintaining defensible borders.

Like Iron Dome, there will be a limited number of Magic Wand units to be deployed based on immediate operational needs. While the system will likely able to protect central Israel from the daily threat of Hamas' rocket capabilities, analysts say defense officials may have over-sold its capabilities to the public in a scenario where open conflict with Hizbullah - in possession of tens of thousands of rockets - erupt.

In such a scenario, they say, the IAF would be in a race against the clock to destroy the stockpiles and launchers from the air before the system was overwhelmed, or Israel's own stockpiles of expensive defensive rockets was depleted.

The Iron Dome and Magic Wand are two of the three systems Israel is developing and deploying as part of its multilayered missile and rocket defense apparatus. A third system – "Arrow 3" – is designed to thwart ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere, which could potentially carry nuclear warheads.