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Star Wars: Israel Charts Ambitious Space Plans

Where No Jew Has Gone Before.. Except, we have.

Israel, already a leader in space technologies is looking to raise its profile in the space game. At stake? Military supremacy in the new century and a boatload of cash.

Activity this past week focused on a high profile meeting between Israel’s space agency head and Mr. Bolden (of recent Muslims in Space, Obama shenanigan fame) over at NASA.

Apparently good things come in small packages (who knew?), and when it comes to satellites Israel packs them in pretty tight. NASA has expressed interest in this miniaturization technology, and Israeli developed radars that can pierce the atmosphere for mapping Venus.

The minister said the conversation mainly focused on NASA’s interest in Israeli technological developments. “We’re going for grandiose collaborations in areas NASA needs us. There are talks about collaboration in at least three areas where Israel is a leading force in the world of space.”

According to Hershkowitz, the US agency showed interest in Israel’s ability to create light satellites which weigh a fifth of American and European satellites while having the same capabilities. Light satellites can be launched from aircrafts and not only from ballistic missiles.

Another Israeli specialty that caught NASA’s attention is hyperspectral cameras which can detect land, air and sea pollution from space and classify types of soils and minerals. The two also discussed Israeli developments in the field of satellite antennas aimed at analyzing photos using radars. NASA is planning to map out Venus, and Israeli technology could help it see through the planet’s layer of clouds. [...]

An agreement of future intent’ has now been been struck with NASA, complete with fancy space words. Impressive!

Big Bang

Key Words for Iranians: My ICBM is bigger than your ICBM. The mammoth 3 Stage Shavit-2 launcher has orbital payload capabilities and can open Israel up to commercial markets - In Space!! (It kills them the Jooz beat Islam into space. Worse, we can come back down.. Right on top of their heads.)

Israel is currently one of only 8 countries capable of putting sats into orbit, and has done so on numerous occasions.

Even sexier, because of Israel’s generally hostile eastern borders Israel launches its satellite rockets opposite the earth’s rotation. A mean feat designed to prevent boosters & technologies falling into enemy hands. This counter rotation launch has necessitated the miniaturization Israel now excels at, putting satellites into lower earth orbits.

Paging Ahmadinejad – Please call your office.

Israel’s advanced home built 3 stage solid fuel Shavit-2 launcher, is now rumored to be capable of 800KG payloads.

That kind of  ‘Big Boy’ payload can deliver a lot of thermonuclear juice boxes. It is based on Israel’s multi-stage Jericho ballistic missiles, but those payloads also open Israel up to new markets. The most recent Shavit launch was in late June, the Ofek 9 military satellite.

TEL AVIV – Israel delivered its latest spy satellite into low Earth orbit on June 22, using an improved version of its indigenous Shavit launcher, defense sources here said.

An official Ministry of Defense (MoD) notice of the launch, which took place about 10 p.m., was expected by midnight, once technicians ascertained that the satellite appeared to be functioning. [...]

The Price is Right

Offek and this miniaturization spell commercialization. Which while not entirely related to the NASA news above, is part of the this week’s space focus.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is set to approve an ambitious plan to turn Israel into a satellite superpower. According to details obtained by The Jerusalem Post, the aim is to increase sales of Israeli space platforms to nearly $8 billion a year.

The multi-year plan calls for the government to annually increase support for space research and development by several hundred million shekels. This investment would focus on new platforms – primarily Israel’s niche market in “mini satellites” – intended to yield billions in sales. [...]

Israel’s specialty, Eshed said, lies in manufacturing “mini satellites” like the recently launched Ofek 9. These weigh just a few hundred kilograms, in contrast to the mammoth satellites of several tons operated by the United States and Russia.

Despite Israel’s advanced technology, sales of its space platforms over the last 20 years have totaled less than $2.5b. Yet the international space market, Eshed stressed, is $250b. a year, and Israel could carve out at least 5% for itself. [...]

The combination of exciting NASA cooperation, and new commercial markets could have important benefits for Israel economically.

Feed naturally into defense applications, move Israel further into the realm of nanotechnology and open new avenues with technological and commercial partners. All the while solidifying our alliance with our favorite ally America well into the new century.

Jews are already in space, we’re just reaching higher.

Awesome: Obama Shifts MidEast Balance of Power Away From Israel

Obama Triples US Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia. Just like the Deficit!!

A funny thing happened along the way to ‘containing’ Iran. Israel lost its historic military edge in the Middle East, and Obama tripled the Bush arms commitment to Saudi Arabia. Haha, the joke it appears is on us. In the last year of the Bush administration the US announced 3 major arms packages.

  1. 10 year, 30 Billion dollar arms commitment to Israel.
  2. 10 year, 20 Billion arms sale package to Saudi Arabia
  3. Multi billion dollar arms sale package to US Gulf allies.

Last year, I wrote that per capita (dollars spent per person) Israel was the largest defense spender on the planet. However, in raw dollar numbers Saudi Arabia was doubling us. According to the Economist, in 2009 Israel spent approximately 16 billion dollars on arms, roughly 3 billion of it coming from US military aid. Compared to the Saudis who spent an alarming 38 Billion dollars on weapons.

Alarm bells went off

Early on in the Obama administration Israel voiced serious concerns to the US at the highest levels. Commitments to Israel regarding arms packages had been broken, and top of the line advanced US weapons were being sold to Saudi Arabia, including guided weapons, smart bombs, and advanced fighter aircraft as part of their 20 billion dollar package under Bush.

Senior sources in the current U.S. administration, and senior officials at the foreign and defense ministries in Israel, have suggested that during the last year of the Bush administration the U.S. sold advanced military equipment to moderate Arab states – Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The Americans justified the arms sales with the need to bolster these countries against the perceived threat posed by Iran.

In an address before the National Jewish Democratic Council, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, commented on the matter. “We discovered that the qualitative edge of the IDF has been eroded,” Oren said. “We came to the Obama administration and said: ‘Listen, we have a problem.’”

According to Oren the response of the Obama administration was positive and immediate. “They said they are going to deal with this matter and ensure that the qualitative edge of the IDF is preserved,” he said. “Since then we have embarked on a dialog [on preserving the IDF's qualitative edge].” [...]

The results?

The Obama administration and democrats tried to make hay implying that Bush was not Israel’s friend, rather Obama is. They were going to fix this. This week it all came gushing out. Today Israel announced it was agreeing to pick up approximately 20 F35 JSF fighter from the US in a 3 billion dollar deal, in order to ostensibly ‘maintain our qualitative edge’.

At the same time, last week the Saudi’s were reported to have agreed to purchasing 84 new F15 fighters from the US in a 30 billion dollar arms deal. As the big fix to allay Israel, Obama had agreed to keep some of the long range weaponry destined to the Saudis out of their deal..

Wait for it.. Today the other shoe dropped.

The Saudi deal swelled, doubling to 60 BILLION DOLLARS over the next 10 years. Throwing in on top of the 84 F15s, an additional 130+ attack helicopters – Some 60 of them advanced Apache gunships, plus US Blackhawks. This will bring the Saudi air-force well above the 200 mark for advanced F15s, and dwarf Israel’s attack helicopter fleet by a factor of about 3.

Obama came through all right..

He in theory cut some of the munitions & systems going to the Saudis, and instead TRIPLED the 20 billion dollar Bush commitment turning it into a 60 billion dollar arms orgy.

One that will see Israel numbers wise outgunned, outspent, and in theory possibly outmatched in the next 15 years. Shifting the balance of power in the Middle East, a balance which was already tilting of late away from Israel toward Iran & terrorists.

Containing Iran is costing us dearly indeed, and they have not even developed the nuclear weapons yet.

Lightning Strike: Huge F-35 Deal Will mean JSF Lands in Israel

Cost Offsets

The JSF saga continues, but it is nearing its end.

We may not be gaining access to critical JSF components, but the tough to swallow price tag may now be muted according to Israeli sources. In the form of a 4 billion dollar manufacturing cost offset which will somewhat lessen the economic sting of a JSF costing twice as much as an F15 latest gen Boeing fighter..

Israeli defense companies have scored one of the biggest deals in the industry’s history: They will be making about $4 billion worth of parts for the next generation of American fighter jets, industry sources told TheMarker.

While no official announcement has been made, Israeli defense officials have been talking with the U.S. defense companies involved in the development and production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. [...]

It is a testament to how badly Israel, the US & Lockheed want to make this whole thing work. After the JSF balloon in cost, both the USA & Lockheed need orders for the jet badly. Israel needs help paying for it.

Prestige

The IAF is indeed a huge win in the jet fighter realm.. The Israeli airforce is world renowned and other countries pay close attention to Israeli procurement. Israel would be the 1st original non official partner on board buying the jet. A huge prestige win for Lockheed & a needed vote of confidence in the JSF.

We can only go with 19 instead of 75 for now, but rest assured a procurement win of 20 or so from Israel will eventually mean a few hundred JSFs sold to other countries down the road. Something the Pentagon & both Lockheed will need to bring down the cost of the jet for US use via mass export / increased production over the next two decades.

F-35 Lightning II / JSF

A large local manufacturing win in Israel will lighten the JSF costs significantly. Please Israel, Lockheed and the US Congress - Which is committed to Israel's security & having us fly the latest US fighter. If these design wins are confirmed, the JSF will be landing in Israel soon to Boeing's F-15 displeasure. (Photo courtesy USAF)

Nothing is official, but if Israel can lend abiltiy, expertise & benefit from the gigantic JSF economy of the future it is almost a certainty that the JSF will have a trump card the F-15 cannot compete with on price alone.

There are other factors at play between the two jets competing over Israeli airspace, but the JSF cost balloon was a substantial & critical one.

Fresh Allies: New Tea Party Caucus Takes Strong Pro-Israel Policy Stand

Line in the Foreign Policy sand.

Welcome SymbolismThere have been concerns raised in Israel by left wing pot stirrers to cast the Tea Party as policy isolationists in the Ron Paul mold. It’s a tactic picked up from liberals in the US aligned with the progressive movement, people who naturally fear the Tea Party which poses a significant political threat.

While limited government, fiscal responsibility and accountability have been mainstays of Tea Party domestic politics, the foreign policy side has been more muddled and less cohesive. Alternating between a smaller isolationist fringe and a more traditional GOP idealistic view of America’s role on the world stage.

Palin Vs Paul

Sarah Palin is unabashedly pro-Israel. Ron Paul considered a hostile entity here, is most certainly not. As such, the wing that best defines the Tea Party on foreign policy is of direct interest to Israelis, we rely on our American brethren for support which is crucial to the State of Israel. The Tea Party is a bold new force in American politics, the uncertainty has kept Israelis guessing.

The brand new Tea Party caucus in Washington however, has quickly moved to draw a line in the sand delineating where large portions of the Tea Party stands on critical foreign policy issues. One of their 1st resolutions has half the caucus sending a message loud and clear..

H. RES. 1553 submitted to the House.

Expressing support for the State of Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel. [...]

It’s a signal that the Tea Party may not only choose to be more bold than the GOP on domestic issues, but may show similar rousing boldness and passion in the foreign policy realm as well.

The Resolution is largely symbolic. None of that symbolism will be lost here in the State of Israel. 

Undiplomatic Solution: Strike Options Targeting Iran Go Top Shelf (Updated)

Multilateral solutions and Diplomatic contusions.

Engagement! Containment! The Straight of Hormuz!! they cried. All of it sounded wonderful over pate in Ivy League circles. In fact, just before Obama took office shelving the military solution became high fashion, put it in a drawer they said. Engagement became the order of the day. But now, strange winds are afoot.

Viability

A last resort military solution to prevent nuclear armed mad mullahs depends on a number of  critical components. The exhaustion of other options, the willingness to use force, and technical ability. These three factors are now coming into alignment and the Strike Option is not only back in play, its got top shelf billing.

 

1 – Exhaustion

The toughest sanctions we are going to see, after over a year and a half of delay and failed engagement are now law in the USA. The Europeans may soon follow suit. Either way the card is in play. No one believes sanctions can prevent a nuclear Iran. At best they are a delaying tactic. This latest final round of sanctions may represent the exhaustion of all other options, knocking requirement one off the list in short order, as Iran’s nuclear & ballistic missile programs advance.

2 – Willingness to use force.

Israel, long believed to be the military option wildcard has always been willing to use force. The Israeli public by overwhelming majority in polling has shown it is fully prepared to strike, even if it means going against the wishes of President Obama. Equally, it’s far from a secret that Israel’s political & military establishment is unified over the need to prevent a nuclear Iran. No shocker there, the Israel chapter is closed.

Things get interesting when we look outside of Israel..

TIPP Investors Business Daily polling on Iran

TIPP / Investors Business Daily polling on Iran

The White House has been stressing that bi-lateral discussions in the security & military echelon between America & Israel have never been closer. That dialog is focused in many ways on the Iranian threat.

We’ve seen over the past year large joint military exercises involving US & Israeli forces, gaming missile defense & regional war scenarios. The intent is to buttress the new interlink between Israel & America, tying the IDF into the US/European central command regarding missile threats.

Of greater note, much of the dialog seems to involve joint planning of theoretical strike options. Either by Israel alone or perhaps involving US assets themselves should the need arise. A far cry from the American position of just a year ago when military options were shelved, and US official after official landed here in Israel to warn us not to strike..

Since the US pushed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran through the UN Security Council last month, Jerusalem has increased diplomatic efforts to convince the White House that for the sanctions to work, a credible military option needs to be on the table to scare Iran to reconsider its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

An indication that this might have happened came in the latest issue of Time magazine, in an article titled “An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table.”

Written by Joe Klein, the article claims that in recent months, the US military’s Central Command has made significant progress in planning targeted air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, some of which were deemed impossible to penetrate just two years ago.

According to the report, the progress was made possible by the “vastly improved human-intelligence operations in the region.”

Israel has reportedly been “brought into the planning process.” [...]

Winds of Change

Could US military planning, and intelligence views have changed so drastically?

According to former CIA director Michael Hayden, that just maybe the case..

A US military strike on Iran has become more likely and could be justifiable in the future, former CIA chief Michael Hayden said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“My personal view is that Iran left to its own devices will get itself to that step right below a nuclear weapon,” said Hayden, “and frankly that will be as destabilizing as their actually having a weapon.”

The former CIA director stated that an attack on Iran had not originally been a serious option, but in light of Iran’s intensified pursuit of nuclear materials, the military option “may not be the worst of all possible outcomes.” [...]

We know that the 2007 NIE which discounted the Iranian nuclear threat publicly, has now itself been discounted by US intelligence. The Pentagon has drastically changed time-lines for an Iranian nuclear capable ICBM maturing, possibly as soon as 2015.

These events suggest a new acknowledgment that the threat to the US is real. The Washington Obama engagement track has failed spectacularly, while prominent voices in the US House & Senate continue to imply the military option was never shelved at all..

A Nuclear Iran could shatter the Obama legacy

Others have now begun suggesting that President Obama, a leftwing ideologue without parallel, may be forced to strike just in order to keep his ideological dreams alive. The notion put forth being that a nuclear Iran will utterly destroy key aspects of Obama’s core foreign policy visions. Non-Proliferation, and a non-nuclear new world order. Issues which any novice following events could immediately recognize as near & dear to his heart.

Taken as a whole, it might seem as if the Political, Military, and Intelligence wings of the US Govt apparatus have all swung round, up to & possibly including the President himself. If that were indeed the case it would knock off the 2nd requirement – The willingness to use force.

Public Opinion

It is worth noting that international polling has shown majorities in favor of the whatever it takes to stop Iran school of thought..

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a gathering of ambassadors in Moscow on Monday conceded that “Iran is moving closer to possessing the potential which in principle could be used for the creation of nuclear weapons.”

Moscow’s admission comes at a time when much of the world is beginning to recognize the magnitude of the threat of an Islamofascist state possessing weapons of mass destruction. In a Pew Research poll of 22 countries last month, a majority in 16 of the states preferred a military strike over tolerating a nuclear Iran. In the U.S., 66% preferred a strike, while 24% objected to it.

In Egypt, 55% supported a military strike on Iran, while 16% opposed it. In Jordan, the figures were 53% to 20% in favor.

So even Mideast Muslims understand the danger to themselves — and they understand that their supposed great enemy, Israel, is likely to be the power to rid the region of that grave danger.

So do Americans. IBD/TIPP polls have consistently favored Israeli military action, and did so again by a 56% to 30% margin in last week’s survey (see chart)

These consistent views internationally, combined with rumors of Muslim states willing to even quietly assist Israel should the need arise all point to military force as a credible option.

3- Technical Ability

The last requirement on the list is the great unknown. Clearly America could level the Iranian nuclear program, the top tier of the regime, and even the bulk of the IRGC itself if it so chooses. That is not speculation. America is an unstoppable military juggernaut which could from a distance cut through Iran like a hot knife through butter.

Israel

We are not in the same league as the Americans, but Israel might be able to do hefty damage to the program, as well as Iranian Ballistic Missile production facilities should it be backed into a corner. If we could with international assistance, open a corridor for 2-3 days of sustained strikes utilizing air power, sea based assets, and Jericho missiles it is likely Israel could do some major damage to Iran’s illicit abilities, and knock the program back years if not a decade or two.

The notion put forward by detractors that a serious strike would only delay Iran 2 or so years seems frankly comical. Iran is teetering economically, and its programs have taken 20 years to put together at a cost of endless billions. Any serious blow could be a fatal one. Leaving in its wake an already near collapse and stagnant economy ravaged by 30%+ unemployment, combined with a sanctioned regime starved of capital or ability to regenerate nuclear programs or options.

In any event the Iranians may not leave Israel, America or the Gulf region much choice.

As public opinion solidifies, options exhaust, and political opinions change in Washington. The last remaining hurdle, technical ability may well fall into place..  If it already hasn’t.

Update:

In the 48 hours since this was posted a number of events directly related to the analysis above have taken place. The EU has indeed followed suit. Both the EU & Canada have announced wide ranging strict fuel & energy sector sanctions on Iran, effectively closing the current sanctions effort chapter.

The top US Department of State official on Iran, and a point man in the Obama Administration engagement effort at the end of this week is resigning. Is this the most potent signal yet that the failed engagement effort is over? Or that the military strike option has indeed gone top shelf? Perhaps both?

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This post has been nominated this week as a Non-Council submission to the Watcher’s Council. Woot! My thanks to the Watcher and the Council for their reading and consideration. Update July 31st – I got shellacked!! :) Congrats to this week’s winners!

X-Band: Israel Links To Global US Ballistic Missile Defense Network

GW Bush’s Gift to Israel Goes Fully Active.

So sayeth Debka

A ballistic missile fired at Israeli from any spot in the Middle East, be it Iran, Syria or South Lebanon, can now be tracked from launch by top Israeli commanders by means of the Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense System (ALTBMD) developed to protect NATO forces against missile threat and provided Israel by the United States. [...]

In the last nine months, the US and Israeli armies have carried out two training exercises in the use of this system – first during the big Juniper Cobra 2010 war game last November … just after an intelligence alert that Iran, Syria and Hizballah had doubled their ballistic missile arsenals; again, from June 6-10, when the USS Harry S. Truman Strike Force was anchored 50 miles off Israel’s southern shore. They practiced combined responses to possible Iranian, Syrian or Hizballah attacks on Israel in the event of a war with Iran.

That exercise, dubbed Juniper Stallion 2010, tested command and battle management and combined early warning drills against incoming missiles. The American AN/TPY-2 radar network using X-Band for intercepting ballistic missiles posted on Mt. Keren (in the Israeli Negev opposite the Egyptian border) was linked for the purpose of the exercise to the Europe-based US Joint Tactical Ground Station (JTAGS).

I hope the crew likes Falafel.

The Mobile X-Band Radar

The Mobile X-Band Radar - This is what the Joe's will have setup, along with likely associated Missile Batteries.

The X-band radar was a gift from President Bush before he left office, an effort spearheaded by Congressional Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL). The combined package entails for the 1st time a small permanent contingent of US Armed Forces / Military personnel on station based in Israel, in what is ostensibly a fully enclosed US mini-base, existing within a much larger IAF superbase.

They have brought with them localized air defenses in the form of PAC-3 Patriots. On top of the PAC-3s which Israel already fields, the mobile X-Band arrival and deployment probably means the US has also deployed an advanced THAAD ballistic interceptor battery here as well as backup to Israeli systems, they are usually a package with the radar. That would be newsworthy as well as quite yummy. The THAAD is the US equivalent to the Israeli IAI Arrow-2 missile shield. Systems and deliveries were in September 2008..

The United States has deployed to Israel a high-powered X-band radar aimed at improving its defense against an Iranian missile attack, Defense News weekly reported over the weekend.

According to the report, quoting American and German sources, more than a dozen aircraft, including C-5s and C-17s, helped with the September 21 delivery of the AN/TPY-2 Transportable Radar Surveillance/Forward Based X-band Transportable (FBX-T), its ancillary components and some 120 US European Command (EUCOM) personnel to the Nevatim Air Base in the Negev.

While the X-Band radar itself is certainly lovely and VERY handy, and the THAADS are cool too. The critical component isn’t just additional tracking abilities which benefit both Israel and the US regarding ballistic missile launches, but full connectivity to the US Global Network monitoring such launches. That connectivity to the US JTAGS system is the real prize, I wrote about it when the X-Band arrived..

As mentioned, Nevatim is the new IAF / IDF superbase, the new command center for Israel’s air force. Now it also houses a US mini base on site as well the 1st of its kind – a Joint Tactical Ground Station. The system ties all US sat, radar and sensor information together in order to paint a real time view of the full war theater. Useful for spotting & tracking incoming missiles, but also the system used to direct offensive forces on precision strikes, guiding fighters to targets in real time (right to the cockpit as necessary) to take out defenses & missile launchers.

That could be handy indeed it seems not just to report and intercept incoming missiles, but to pre-empt them as well before they launch via strikes. If anything the xband arrival spells coordination, between Israel and US assets in the Gulf, Med, & Red Sea, tying in the US Aegis ABM & THAAD systems across the theatre.

The Obama administration has been quick to claim deep coordination between US military assets & the IDF. It’s true this has been going on, but this plan was hatched under Bush like so many others, and it has been carried out by Sec Def Gates who himself has spanned the administrations. Israel is now tied into the most advanced real time war monitoring system in the history of the world. The haters love to say we have eyes & ears everywhere, as of now they are indeed correct.

A Missile Shield Every Jewish Mother Could Love..

The short range Iron Dome, the medium range David’s Sling, the long range IAF Arrow-2, now combined with the American sea based US Aegis SM-3 ABM cruisers, as well as advanced THAAD American interceptors, rounded out by the latest Patriot PAC-3s; all tied together to the US Global & Space monitoring network. Yikes, that’s A LOT of missile defense. The question is, what did we have to give up?

Kirk who as mentioned spearheaded this effort said it’s not what you think..

[...] “There is no quid pro quo,” he said.

“You mean that the US did not say that in exchange for deploying the X-Band system Israel needs to receive US permission to attack Iran?”

“No, the US made no such demand,” Kirk said.

Let’s pray he was indeed correct. As John Madden might say, the best defense is a good offense.

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UPDATE: Warporn
I realized this post might benefit from video of things exploding!!

YouTube Preview Image
Above: FutureWeapons on THAAD, which gives a nice quick overview on layered Missile Defense described in the post.

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