Defense Minister Ehud Barak has given a green light for the IDF to purchase the Vulcan-Phalanx system from the United States.
The anti-missile defense system will be used for the early warning and interception of short-range Kassam rockets and mortar shells fired by Gaza terrorists at towns and strategic facilities in southern Israel.
The Vulcan Gatling gun component of the $25 million system cannon is a ground-based version of that which is used on Israeli navy ships and aircraft. It can fire up to 6,000 shells per minute and cover a 1,200-square meter area.
Israel has already ordered the Phalanx radar component separately. The Phalanx is used to detect the firing of missiles and will provide about a 20-second warning to area communities, only five seconds more than the Color Red rocket alert system currently in use. Its main advantage is that it can detect mortar shells -- which elude the Color Red system.
If U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates agrees, the first Vulcan-Phalanx may arrive by this winter. Delivery of the Iron Dome system, designed to intercept longer-range missiles, is not expected before the summer of 2010 at the earliest.
Joint US-Israel Missile Defense System Tested
A joint American-Israeli anti-ballistic missile system was tested and proved accurate and effective in an IDF launch earlier this month.
Production of the Arrow II, developed by the MLM Division of Israel Aerospace Industries (formerly Israel Aircraft Industries) is being funded by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. Boeing and 150 American companies provide the components, with IAI handling integration and final assembly in Israel.
In a series of 14 intercept tests, the Arrow II theater ballistic missile defense system has proven itself effective against targets at both high and low altitudes. Two Arrow batteries are deployed in Israel, one near Tel Aviv and one near Haifa.
It is not clear why Barak decided to buy the American Vulcan-Phalanx system as well.
Obama Delays Arms to Israel: Cudgel to Accept PA State?
A decision by the Obama administration to delay weapons shipments to Israel has fueled concerns that the U.S. is leveraging armaments to force the Netanyahu government to accept the establishment of a Palestinian Authority state.
It is believed that the specter of such a threat may have had a role in the Defense Ministry's decision a few months ago to resume developing and producing indigenous munitions. Such a move would contribute towards an end to Israel's dependence on U.S. weapons.
The need for locally-made munitions was one of the key lessons learned from the 2006 Second Lebanon War, when Israel quickly exhausted its supply of U.S.-made air-dropped munitions, according to a report published by the Middle East Newsline.
“We have to end our exclusive dependency on the United States in the area of air bombs,” an official source said.
The IDF used a range of Israeli-made weapons during the three-week counterterrorist Operation Cast Lead in Gaza this past January. The state-owned Israel Military Industries (IMI) and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems produced most of the indigenous munitions that were used during the operation.