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Wednesday, May 12, 2010     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Israel completes upgrade of PAC missile defense

TEL AVIV — Israel's military has completed deployment of an enhanced version of the PAC-2 missile defense system.


Officials said the Israel Air Force has been operating about 10 batteries of the PAC Guided Enhanced Missile system, Middle East Newsline reported. GEM+ marked a major upgrade of the heritage Patriot and contained capabilities of the advanced PAC-3 system.

"This is not something we like to advertise, but we have upgraded all of our operational batteries," an official said. "The heritage Patriot cannot be used for missile defense."

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Israel's GEM fleet stems from a $100 million contract awarded by the U.S. Defense Department to Raytheon in May 2007. The contract was said to have included the conversion of PAC-2 interceptors for Israel and the U.S. Army.

"GEM-T missiles are PAC-2 missiles that are refurbished and modernized at Raytheon's Integrated Air Defense Center, Andover, Mass.," Raytheon said. "Through the upgrade process, older components are replaced, new technology inserted and reliability increased."

In 2003, the Air Force's Patriot battery was bolstered by exports from Germany and the United States. Officials said they included the first GEM capability, later expanded in Israeli programs with Patriot manufacturer Raytheon.

Israel first used PAC-2 in the 1991 war with Iraq. The 1970s-era system, designed to down aircraft, failed to knock out any of the 42 Scud B missiles fired by Iraq toward the Jewish state.

Raytheon completed the GEM+ system for the U.S. Army in 2002. The interceptors were fired during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the system underwent another upgrade three years later.

The Israel Air Force has never fired GEM+ in wartime. In 2006, the air force placed the Patriot on alert to track Iranian-origin unmanned aerial vehicles used by Hizbullah to penetrate Israeli air space.

The GEM+ has been given the code name "Yahalom," or "diamond." Officials said GEM was placed as the fourth element of a five-layer missile defense system.

"Yahalom is available today," Israel Air Defense Command chief Brig. Gen. Doron Gavish said.

Raytheon has been working with Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to build the David's Sling missile and rocket defense system. Officials said David's Sling, expected to be completed by 2014, contained a higher interception capability than GEM.

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