WASHINGTON, March 13 (UPI) -- Israel's Iron Dome very-short-range anti-ballistic missile defense system is skyrocketing way over cost and is still years from effective deployment even though southern Israel has been under low-tech Qassam rocket bombardment for eight years. So why doesn't the Israeli military establishment buy America's tried and tested Phalanx super machine gun to do the job instead?
"The Phalanx, which the U.S. has successfully used in Iraq to shoot down rockets and mortar shells, has also been rejected even though the Israel air force wrote in January 2006 that the Phalanx was 'the most prepared weapons defense systems among those inspected,'" respected Israeli analyst Reuven Pedatzur wrote in the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz on March 5.
Pedatzur said that the controversial Administration for the Development of Weapons in the Israeli Defense Ministry continues to refuse to assess the Phalanx's performance seriously, despite the total failure to bring Iron Dome online for at least another year and probably more.
"The ADW's response as to why the system has not yet been brought to Israel was: 'We're still gathering data on its performance,'" he wrote.
As another Haaretz columnist, Yossi Melman, wrote March 5, "The Vulcan Phalanx is a U.S.-made gun that the U.S. Army uses against steep-trajectory rockets and mortar shells in Iraq and Afghanistan. The system includes detection radar, tracking radar and two 20mm cannons."
This year's annual report by Israeli State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss contains a sobering description of bureaucratic foot-dragging and what even appears to have been deliberate obstructionism by the Israeli military establishment going back at least five years to prevent the Phalanx, which is built by Raytheon, from being bought by Israel as a possible rival to their own cherished Iron Dome project.
Back in 2004, Lindenstrauss documented, the Israeli air force and the research and development department of the Israeli Defense Ministry, also known as Mafat, carried out assessment tests on the Phalanx. The report concluded, "The Vulcan Phalanx system is likely to provide a solution for protecting strategic sites."
Yet years passed while Israel's southern settlements remained under constant Qassam rocket bombardment from Gaza, and no action was taken to follow up with the Phalanx.
"In December 2004, Mafat received basic data regarding the system's efficacy against Qassam rockets," Melman wrote in Haaretz. "About a year later, in January 2006, the air force determined it was the best-developed system to protect against mortar shells and rockets. In spite of that, nothing was done."
Hard-charging Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has achieved genuine success in rescuing Israel's other ballistic missile defense programs from the administrative chaos they had fallen into under the inept direction of his predecessor, Amir Peretz. Barak is a great admirer of the U.S. armed forces and their high-tech weapons systems, and he tried to get his own Defense Ministry bureaucrats to take an interest in the Phalanx. But he got nowhere and did not follow through on it.
(Part 3: How Israel's military bureaucrats outwitted Ehud Barak to block the Phalanx)