As rockets slammed into Jewish towns last Tuesday, Israelis apprehended that the five months “Hudna” (cease-fire) with the Islamic group was finally over.
In the first rocket attack it had claimed responsibility for in five months, Hamas fired 39 Qassam rockets and 79 mortars from the Gaza Strip aimed at nearby Jewish communities. The attacks occurred as Israelis nationwide celebrated the country’s 59th Independence Day.
IDF officials believe that Hamas was following Hezbollah’s copybook, in that the missile attacks were actually a diversion from an attempted kidnapping operation, which was detected and foiled by Israeli forces. In fact, the so-called Hudna never observed a cease fire at all and rockets kept falling nearly on a daily basis on Shderot and other Israeli settlements along the Gaza strip border. Since the disengagement there have been more than 2,000 rocket attacks, most of them Qassam rockets. There also have been almost 300 attacks using explosives. This was the Palestinian terror response to Israel’s unilateral 2005 disengagement, which handed the Gaza Strip over to the Palestinians and thus became their first sole responsibility.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, already under public pressure over the forthcoming Vinograd commission report due on Monday, decided that Israel will avoid a broad military response for the time being. But Major General Yoav Galant, commander of Territorial Command South, disagreed with the ruling consensus. The general had been warning that Gaza is becoming a “second Lebanon” and that if Israel fails to act decisively against the “rocket industry” and huge weapons influx, a future confrontation with Hamas would be much more costly. Israeli intelligence has been monitoring a Hamas build-up in the Gaza Strip, including the construction of an underground bunker defense along the border, with tunnels, weapon caches and fortified buildings. The IDF will thus be forced to adapt new tactics in planning its attacks- instead of the police-like low intensive combat (LIC) operations, the IDF now considers any offensive foray into Hamas territory to become high intensive combat(HIC) warfighting.
On the other side of the fence, Hamas is also changing tactics in preparation of the Israeli onslaught which is becoming inevitable and only a question of timing. After Tuesday’s attacks, Abu Abdullah, a leading official of the Hamas military wing, Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, warned a cease-fire his group agreed upon with Israel last November was now “officially over.” Last Tuesday’s rocket offensive was only a sample of what Hamas can now offer, with thousands of rockets in its arsenal Hamas could rage havoc among Israeli settlements up to Ashkelon, Abdullah claimed.
Indeed, an upgraded Hamas – under the leadership of military wing commander Ahmed Ja’abri – has succeeded in establishing a 10,000-strong army with a new arsenal of weapons, including hundreds of Qassam rockets, mortars, anti-tank weapons and tons of military grade explosives- all smuggled into the Gaza Strip through a vast tunneling network along the Egyptian border. Senior Israeli military sources describe the Rafah area along the border with Egypt, an area known by code name ‘Philadelphi’ as a subterranean maze spreading over 50 square km, consisting of a network of multipurpose, well-furnished tunnels, designed by Hezbollah engineers to combat tanks and armored infantry with the latest anti-tank missiles all supplied by Iran via Hezbollah.
Shin Bet director, Yuval Diskin warned recently that Hamas, were employing Hezbollah’s Lebanon tactics by building a Katyusha deployment, bunker network and anti-tank missile arsenal in the Gaza Strip. The northern West Bank, he said, had virtually been taken over by Hezbollah agents and radical Jihad Islami terrorists. Diskin’s portrayal of Sinai as a paradise for international weapons traffickers and a strategic threat to Israel was timed to caution the political leadership. The decision by Hezbollah to keep its head down in South Lebanon for the time being, Diskin warned, was employed to secretly opening two new anti-Israel fronts in the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. This transposition of Hezbollah’s war against Israel to the Palestinian arena has begun to materialize, he told the Knesset.
In fact, three times as many Hezbollah officers are traveling to the Gaza Strip by sea as before last summer’s war and deliveries of weapons systems have since doubled, with Iranian support. Very large quantities of Katyusha rockets and anti-tank missiles are pouring unhindered into the Gaza Strip together with hundreds of RPG-29 rocket-propelled grenades and Grad rockets. IDF Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, head of the IDF intelligence research department, confirmed that Hamas has smuggled advanced anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles into the Gaza Strip. Israeli security officials have also expressed concern that Hamas may even have smuggled a number of Sagger, Konkurs and Kornet anti-tank missiles from the Sinai into the Gaza Strip.
Nor are manpower reserves lacking in Gaza. In theory there are over 300,000 males available within military age groups in the Gaza Strip alone. Nearly every family member has some kind of weapon in his possession. Apart from Gaza City ( over 400,000) Gaza’s other two main population centers are Khan Younis (population 200,000) in central Gaza and Rafah (population 150,000) in the south. The major cradle for unrest is in the densely packed refugee camps. The unfortunate fact is, that the majority of Gaza’s residents are refugees who fled or were expelled in 1948 from the land that became Israel. Most Gazans live in eight refugee camps, which have one of the highest population densities on earth. They are, Jabaliya (population estimate (106,691) Rafah (95,187), Shati (78,768), Nuseirat (57,120), Khan Younis (63,219), Bureij (28,770), Maghazi (22,266), Deir el-Balah (19,534), all boiling pots of misery and discontent, ready sources for Islamic terrorist recruiting. Intelligence estimates believe that in Gaza there are between 80,000 and 100,000 automatic rifles and machine guns. This represents the most armed people in the Middle East perhaps, except for Somalia. Only in 2006, thirty tons of military-grade TNT was brought into Hamas secret caches.
A senior official in the Hamas military, known by his nom de guerre, Abu Huzaifa, recently told the PA news agency Duniya Alwatan that since the Disengagement from Gaza, the Hamas has set up military bases in every city in Gaza. The bases have been training a new cadre of highly motivated fighters for the Jihad, or holy war against non-Moslems in general and the Jewish state in particular.
Any military incursion into the Gaza Strip presents an extremely complicated operation. Over 1,3 million people are living in unbearable squalor, packed into this narrow strip of land. Over sixty percent of the population is crowded into dense refugee camps with narrow alleys and irregular makeshift buildings, making any military operation a sheer nightmare. Thus, quite naturally, there is little enthusiasm among soldiers over the prospect of a new land incursion. It can be done, officers told visiting politicians, but what will we do on the day after? Even when the IDF operated freely in the northern Gaza Strip, during Operation Days of Penitence, in 2004, the Qassams continued to be fired, officers reminded them. Moreover, the very thought, that Israel will again control over a million Palestinians in the chaotic and lawless Gaza Strip sends cold shivers to most Israelis.
Whatever the case for an all-out invasion into the Gaza strip, it will be a different ballgame from any previous military operation held during the Second Intifada. The Hamas election victory last year inaugurated an accelerated push to build up strength in anticipation of a major clash. The Iranian aid, the porous Egyptian border and the internal ability to build infrastructure unhindered has led Hamas to go within one year “from zero to seven, on a scale of 10,” in the estimation of the Southern Command intelligence officers.
With Hamas in control, any future confrontation will become a costly adventure for both sides. Unfortunately, all this could have been prevented if wise statesmanship would have been present here only one year ago. It is well known that Abu Mazen virtually “begged” Israel not to authorize the 2006 January elections. While Israeli intelligence failed to assess the election results, basing their assumptions on the Palestinian polls, Abu Mazen was fully aware of Hamas’ overwhelming popularity. The Israeli government, influenced by Washington’s eagerness to foster the Bush “democratization doctrine” refused Abu Mazen’s plea not to allow elections in East Jerusalem, giving him pretext to postpone the elections. Israel’s political leadership feared that its international standing, enhanced by Sharon’s disengagement, would suffer a painful setback. It was a serious political mistake, for which Israel will have to pay dearly, with things to come.
What analysts now predict is an adverse international reaction to any major Israeli operation in Gaza, if the situation will continue to escalate into open confrontation, with mass casualties on both sides. World opinion will not tolerate an Israeli offensive into the crowded refugee camps, which Hamas has turned into a heavily bunkered defense. But Israeli officials warn, that should Palestinian missiles and mortars continue to rain on Israeli settlements and with suicide bombers running riot, there will not remain an alternative, but mount a major offensive into the Gaza strip. While the entire re-occupation of the Strip seems out of context, a limited Israeli controlled cordon sanitaire in the northern part, which was populated by former Israeli settlements, could be established again in order to place Palestinian rockets out of range from major strategic targets in the Ashkelon area. In fact, according to the 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement a special paragraph depicted security arrangements of this kind within a security perimeter delimited by both sides. Meanwhile, the army is preparing, and on a scale that some liken to the preparations preceding the first Lebanon War in 1982. In Israel, such preparations tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies.
Analysts find it extremely difficult to decipher the logic that guided these latest actions by a Hamas led government last week. On the face, the responsibility lies with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s Hamas government, which is unable to exert any function over the rival factions and warlords. Some analysts in Gaza believe that Hamas’ decision to fire Qassam rockets at Israel on Independence Day was an attempt to make the Palestinian public forget the movement’s failure to restore order in the streets of the Strip.
Nor is the IDF sitting idely by watching the Gaza Strip turning into a huge military potential arsenal on its very threshold. For its part, Israel is clearly preparing for the possibility of war, redoubling infantry and armor maneuvers, as well as holding a nearly-unprecedented national civil defense exercise several weeks ago. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazy has made it plain that Israel should be prepared to root out terror in Gaza and that he, personally, is unsatisfied with the results of last summer’s combat in Lebanon, which will not be repeated here.
Russian-Inidan development program
On January 2007 an agreement was reached between Russia and India to participate in the development and production of the Multirole Transport Aircraft, (MTA). The twin engine aircraft will have a load capacity of 20 tons and will be designed for the transportation of military and commercial cargo. The aircraft will be designed to operate from most basic runways, including high mountainous areas.
The MTA will be designed to address Russian military requirements and is slated for deployment around 2015. The variant for the Indian Air Force is included in the long term plans of te Indian MoD. Three pre-production aircraft are scheduled to be completed by 2010, the first flight is expected by 2011, commencing with deliveries by 2013.
MTAs will be produced in two production lines, based in Russia and India. Russian and Indian requirements are estimated at 150 aircraft. According to the group’s analysis, by 2025 there could be a market for 350 aircraft.
Several engines are being considered – two versions of Russian made engines of the Perm Engine Company (PS-12 or PS-90A) as well as a number of western engines. The aircraft will be equipped with modern glass cockpit including navigation and auto-pilot systems for automatic route setting (both day and night), air-drop point navigation and ‘blind’ approach for landing at rough terrain runways. The crew will consist of three, two pilots and a navigator.
The program will be managed by a joint venture, equally owned by Indian and Russian companies. The lead designer will be the Russian company Irkut, with participation of Ilyushin Aviation Complex, acting as the design center, with HAL of India and Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport will support development, production and marketing.
In a first-of-its-kind dual missile defense test yesterday, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) demonstrated simultaneous ship engagements against both cruise and ballistic missile targets. The interceptors included an SM-3 Block IA missile, which destroyed a short-range ballistic missile target in space while an SM-2 Block IIIA engaged a cruise missile threat at a lower altitude. Both missiles are produced by Raytheon Company (NYSE:RTN).
The test marked the eighth successful intercept in ten flight tests for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program, and the 27th successful hit to kill intercept in tests since 2001.
It also marked the first flight test of all the SM-3 Block IA’s upgrades, previously demonstrated only in ground tests; it also demonstrated the effectiveness of engineering, manufacturing, and mission assurance changes in the solid divert and attitude control system (SDACS) in the kinetic kill weapon.
The engagement started on 11:31 a.m. Hawaii Time, when a short-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Hawaii. At the same time, a target simulating a hostile high performance aircraft or cruise missile was launched from a Navy aircraft. The Aegis cruiser, equipped with the Ballistic Missile Defense 3.6 Weapon System, detected and tracked both targets and developed fire control solutions. Approximately one minute later, the Lake Erie’s crew fired the SM-3 and SM-2 missiles.
The missiles received continuous updates on the target’s location during their flight, enabling the third stage to shape its flight profile to narrow the intercept envelope before handing off terminal guidance to the kinetic warhead (KW). On the terminal phase, the KW commanded the SDACS to perform a series of maneuvers to keep the SM-3 on target all the way to a lethal intercept. Two minutes after launch both missiles successfully intercepted their respective targets. The SM-3 intercept occurred approximately 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and 250 miles northwest of Kauai, through a “hit to kill” direct impact with the target.
The test, designated Flight Test Mission-11, was the second with the Block IA version of SM-3 and the first IA with a full-capability solid divert and attitude control system. (SDACS). This system maneuvers the kinetic warhead (KW) to the target using multiple pulses of gas generated by the SDACS propellant. Boeing (NYSE: BA) builds several components of the KW, including the guidance electronics, which it integrates with the Raytheon infrared seeker. Alliant Techsystems (NYSE:ATK) is providing the Third Stage Rocket Motor (TSRM) and the Solid Divert and Attitude Control System (SDACS) the missile’s kill vehicle.
The Aegis BMD 3.6 Weapon System, including the SM-3 Block IA missile, was certified for tactical deployment by the U.S. Navy and MDA in September 2006. Aegis BMD 3.6 enhances the ballistic missile defense capabilities of the current Aegis BMD fleet and adds capability in other warfare areas – as demonstrated in today’s test. An earlier version of Aegis BMD was declared operational in October 2004. Currently, seven Aegis-equipped warships have the ability to engage ballistic missiles. Another nine Aegis warships are equipped with Aegis BMD Long Range Search &Track capability. Japan began installation of Aegis BMD in its Kongo-class Aegis destroyers in 2007.
The SM-3 Block IA provides increased capability to engage short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The SM-3 Block IA incorporates rocket motor upgrades and computer program modifications to improve sensor performance, missile guidance and control, and lower cost.
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the U.S. Navy are jointly developing Aegis BMD as part of the US Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). Ultimately 15 Aegis destroyers and three Aegis cruisers will be outfitted with the ability to engage short to intermediate range ballistic missile threats and support other BMDS engagements using the Aegis BMD Weapon System and the SM-3. Japan has purchased Aegis BMD capability for their Aegis destroyers and is a partner developing a larger, faster variant of the SM-3.
Ionatron (NASDAQ: IOTN) announced the establishement of a new organization focused on the development, engineering, production and support of specialty lasers for military, aerospace, and security customers. Ionatron’s Laser Group (“ILG”) will be located in St. Louis, Missouri, and has been staffed by an experienced team of engineers and technicians with expertise in the design, engineering and production of compact, rugged, lightweight, and highly efficient advanced solid state lasers, and in the special requirements for qualification of lasers for military and aerospace missions. The focus of the organization will be in engineering Ionatron’s unique laser technologies for military customers, developing new applications for these laser technologies, and in executing other defense and aerospace laser program opportunities.
The ILG team consists of a core of experts in military laser design with experience from a variety of notable military and spaceborne laser programs. These include space-launched laser radar transmitters for several Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) experiments, the Mars Observer Laser Altimeter (MOLA) transmitter designed to map the surface of Mars, and several military laser rangefinder/target designators and electro-optic countermeasure (EOCM) transmitters. More recently, these individuals have developed high performance laser transmitters for laser bathymetery and other laser radar systems.
Lasers are increasingly being used for defense applications, such as targeting of conventional weapons, and remote detection and identification of targets. Ionatron recently completed the first phase of a program for a customer to use its lasers to remotely detect and identify traces of chemicals and explosives in the atmosphere. The customer has requested and is evaluating a follow-on program proposal. Other military applications for high performance lasers include laser imaging, spectroscopy, communications, and tactical weapon and countermeasure applications. Ionatron’s newly formed laser group will take a lead in pursuing both new military applications for its ultrashort pulsed lasers, as well as development and production programs for other more established military laser technologies.
Ionatron is a pioneering developer of directed energy technologies for defense applications, most notably Laser Guided Energy (LGE) which utilizes Tera-Watt class ultrashort pulse lasers coupled with patented and proprietary high-voltage technologies to accurately and efficiently deliver high energy electrical discharges to targets. The newly formed laser team will be responsible for transitioning Ionatron’s developmental LGE laser architectures into compact and rugged military laser hardware, and the manufacture of those laser subsystems systems for fielding.
Dana Marshall, President and CEO of Ionatron commented: “Translating our Laser Guided Energy technology into hardware that can operate reliably on the battlefield is a unique challenge. Our recent Navy LGE contract award includes a significant laser development effort toward that goal. I am confident that we will be well prepared to meet that challenge for our customers as our LGE technology advances and we benefit from the technical capability and experience of this specialized laser engineering team.”
Mr. Marshall continued: “The military has found many powerful uses for lasers, and Ionatron’s unique ultrashort pulse laser technologies offer new possibilities for many important defense applications. I believe we’ve assembled an excellent team to pursue the growing opportunities in this area. While the primary impetus for the formation of this group was supporting our core technology and its implementation, the potential for leveraging this capability into the expanding market and demand for advanced lasers for other military applications provides us with another potential avenue for significant growth. We also firmly believe that many of these lasers will have commercial and industrial markets, as well as uses for Homeland Security and other security applications.”
The U.S. Marine Corps are evaluating On the Move / Over the Horizon (OTM/OTH) capabilities for deployable maneuver elements, providing command and control elements with efficient, broadband connectivity for voice and data communications.
The M2C2 systems, designed by Raytheon is comprised of an integrated communications suite carried on a HMMWV, and transportable with a single UH-60 class helicopter. The system supports nine radios, including two enhanced position locating and reporting system (EPLRS) , four SINCGARS VHF sets, a PRC 150 UHF, two PSC-5 satellite communication (SATCOM) radios, all accessible through workstations connected to the terminals can also display video and images. Several M2C2 vehicles can be linked into a network, to support a deployed command post.
During the recent Soldier Technology 2007 conference and exhibition, held in une 2008 in London, Col. Richard Hanson, EO Soldier Land Warrior Program Manager briefed on the status of the US Army’s Land Warrior program. Hansen’s briefing covered the progress with the various warrior programs, as well as the rapid fielding initiative. Land Warrior kits were modified significantly after the 4/9 test & evaluation.
Since the suite is modular, it was redesigned to better match the troops preference, moving the radio and batteries to the soldier’s back, while the computer, navigator and controller unit (known as ‘fusion’) is mounted on the side, clearing more space for ammunition and grenades. Such repositioning was possible with the mounted warrior kit, since these warfighters usually operate close to their Stryker armored vehicles. Currently, over 200 land warrior suites are operational in Iraq with the 42nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT).
Operational lessons gathered during the current employment are expected to be instrumental for further progress of future programs. The focus is on empowering the small unit to call for fire; collect and relay target data to command post and fire units and accelerate medical support calls and treatment in combat conditions. Further development of the system was suspended this year as funding due to the program’s cancellation by the Army. However, the Senate Armed Services Committee added $80 million to the FY 09 program to resurrect the program, as it migrates into the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS). Two demonstrations are scheduled for this year, at Ft. Dix and Fort Bennings.
Boeing (NYSE:BA) and iRobot Corp. (NASDAQ:IRBT) are teaming to design and develop ‘SUGV Early’, a small unmanned ground vehicle designed for reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities for military and civil applications.
Early will be a smaller, lighter version of the PackBot, currently operational with US forces and EOD units worldwide. The new SUGV will carry a video camera and commercial electro-optics, infrared sensors mounted on an articulated manipulator arm and a track-driven chassis that will allow it to negotiate rough terrain and stairs.
The 30-pound (13.6 kg) backpackable unit will utilizes commercial off-the- shelf technology and employ the basic design of future networked robotic systems currently under development for the U.S. Army, will be ready for delivery in 2008.
Under the agreement, Boeing will provide expertise in systems integration, large volume production and global marketing for the iRobot designed robots. Both companies will jointly offer these commercial robots to all U.S. Department of Defense, civil and international markets. “By teaming with Boeing, we can leverage their system-of-system capabilities and global marketing strength to quickly get these life-saving robots into the hands of our troops, first responders and allies worldwide.” said Vice Adm. Joe Dyer (U.S. Navy, Ret.), president of iRobot Government and Industrial Robots.
Heavily armored vehicles designed with V-shaped hulls operated by the U.S. Marines proved to be better protected than conventional armored vehicles. The V-shaped hull deflects the force of blasts from homemade bombs buried in roadways. In more than 300 attacks since last year, no Marines have died while riding in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. These vehiclew were operated initially by explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) units, where they were known as Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle or JERRV, But as they proved their higher protetion levels, they were dispatched to support patrols of regular Marine units. The Marines currently operate about 100 of these vehicles and are planning to field additional 3,000.
According to Brig. Gen. John Allen, deputy commander of coalition forces in Anbar, quoted by in USA Today article last week, the Marines tracked attacks on the vehicles since January 2006. He said there has been an average of less than one injured Marine per attack on the vehicles.
There have been 1,100 attacks on coalition vehicles during the period in Anbar, the heart of the Sunni Muslim insurgency. Attacks on other vehicles caused more than two casualties per attack, including deaths, Allen said. The Marines did not release the number of deaths involving Humvees.
Pentagon casualty records show that of the 60 combat deaths this month in Iraq, 35 troops have been killed by improvised explosive devices. None was a Marine. At least 16 of the dead were riding in Humvees, according to records and published reports. IEDs are responsible for 70 percent of U.S. casualties in Iraq, Pentagon records show.
Force Protection Industries, Inc. received a third order from the Marine Corps Systems Command, worth $480 million for the delivery of 1,000Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. This is the largest order received by Force Protection to date, representing about 25% of the entire anticipated MRAP buy. According to the Force Dynamics JV , 50% of the contract ($244.50 million) are shared with General Dynamics. Manufacturing will be performed in Anniston, Alabama; Charlotte, Michigan; Ladson, South Carolina; Lima, Ohio; Kings Point, North Carolina; and Sealy, Texas. To date, Force protection obtained the lion’s share of the MRAP program, thanks to the maturity and proven combat survivability of the Cougar armored vehicle.
Despite its large volume, this order is still considered as ‘Low Rate Initial Production’ (LRIP). 300 of the vehicles will be 4×4 (Category I) and the remaining 700 Category II (6×6 vehicles). Deliveries are expected to complete by May 2008. Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity. The Marine Corps Systems Command is the contracting authority for the MRAP program.
To increase production capacity in anticipation for the growing sales, Force Protection ivested in expansion of its production facilities, and established a joint venture with General Dynamics Land Systems. Further expansions are also underway at its chassis supplier, Spartan Systems.
QinetiQ North America is strengthening its position n the unmanned systems market with two acquisitions of robotics specialist companies, acquired by the company’s Foster-Miller, Inc. Both of the acquired businesses are located at Pittsburgh: Automatika, Inc., and Applied Perception, Inc. Both companies have extensive ongoing programs with the US Army and USMC.
Automatika is a designer, system prototyping, and manufacturing company, responsible for several unmanned systems evaluated by the US Marine Corps, including the ‘Dragon Runner’ and an unattended, remotely controlled ground sensor. Applied Perception developed perception, planning, and control software and development tools to support the navigation of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). Boston based Foster-Miller is the largest provider of man- transportable robots to the Department of Defense and recently delivered its 1000th TALON robot to the U.S. military in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.