BMD Watch: Israel may get PAC-3s cheap

By MARTIN SIEFF, UPI Senior News Analyst  |  Aug. 21, 2007 at 2:20 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin has offered to sell Israel more Patriot PAC-3s at a lower price to help confront the growing threat from Syria, the Jerusalem Post reported Monday.

Israel's own Arrow anti-ballistic missile interceptor has performed superbly in recent tests, especially against target missiles configured to perform like the Iranian Shahid-3 intermediate range interceptor. But the Arrow is designed to perform at higher altitudes. In any war with Syria, Israel would have to defend itself against a massive initial bombardment of short-range missiles with far lower trajectories -- a type of threat that the Patriot is far better designed to handle.

The Post said Lockheed Martin was ready to sell PAC-3s to Israel for only $50 million per battery. The newspaper said Israel's defense minister and general staff would decide whether to agree to the deal by the end of next week. This relatively rapid decision-making cycle underlines the sense of urgency in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv about the Syrian ballistic missile threat.

Baluyevsky talks tough on BMD bases fight

Russia is keeping up its pressure and threats against Poland and the Czech Republic for their determination to allow the United States to deploy ballistic missile defense facilities on their territories to guard against possible future Iranian or North Korean attacks on America and Western Europe. Russia has claimed the facilities are really intended against its strategic nuclear forces.

Russia's top ranking serving soldier, four star Army Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, the chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, told the Czechs Tuesday they were making a big mistake, RIA Novosti reported.

"Russian-Czech consultations on the issue, which were held four months ago, regrettably brought no change in the Czech position. You made the decision to push ahead with the deployment of a radar on your soil. I believe that would be a huge mistake by your leadership," Baluyevsky said at a meeting with Martin Bartak, first deputy defense minister of the Czech Republic, according to the report.

Baluyevsky sounded more pessimistic than ever about the prospects of reaching some kind of agreement with Washington and its allies on the issue. He expressed his skepticism that the United States and NATO were even interested in holding more talks on the issue.

"We are being told that there is no need to conduct consultations now that the decision to deploy a missile defense system has been made, and that Russia is only interfering in the dialog between the U.S. and Poland and the U.S. and the Czech Republic. It seems to me that this is wrong," Baluyevsky said.

RIA Novosti noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin, during his two-day meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush at the Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, last month, offered to integrate a new Russian radar facility already being constructed in southern Russia into a BMD system that would be run by the NATO-Russia Joint Permanent Council, which includes the United States and Russia.

Putin has also offered to boost the capabilities of Russia's own early-warning radar array in Gabala, Azerbaijan. However, U.S. experts say this would not provide the same effective defense against the Iranian threat that the Poland-Czech facilities would.

Taiwan PAC-3 deal hits new problems

Taiwan's Legislature in June finally lifted its block on buying Patriot PAC-3 missiles from the United States.

Analyst David Isenberg noted in Asia Times Online Tuesday that the Legislative Yuan in Taipei finally agreed to end a four-year deadlock with the Taiwanese government over buying an ambitious high-tech order from the United States of 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine-warfare aircraft, eight diesel-electric submarines, six Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile-defense batteries and upgrades to Taiwan's older PAC-2 ABM interceptor batteries.

"However, the Yuan only approved funds for the Orion aircraft and the Patriot upgrades. The sale will cost Taiwan NT$31.9 billion (US$970 million), far less than the approximately US$18.5 billion value of the total package," Isenberg wrote.

Isenberg also noted a commentary published in Defense News by John Tkacik, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, that the U.S. State Department was now actively opposing implementation of the deal to deter Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian from holding a referendum on Taiwan's entry into the United Nations.

The U.S. Department of Defense has long supported the arms deal, but Tkacik wrote that the State Department had informed the Defense Department of its opposition to its going through at this time.

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