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U.S. enters final stages of missile defense tests with Israel

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Wednesday, January 22, 2003

TEL AVIV Although Israel has announced that its missile defenses are complete, the current joint exercises with the United States are continuing and have been extended and revised.

The exercise, termed Juniper Cobra-2, will continue throughout January and end on Feb. 2. Defense sources said the missile defense exercise, which contains four stages, will be more limited than had been envisioned.

A U.S. Aegis-class cruiser will join Juniper Cobra within the next few days, the sources said. They said the cruiser will operate its Spy-1 multi-function radar to detect and track enemy missile launches and aircraft. They said Israel and the United States agreed to shelve a plan to fire the Aegis-class cruiser's new SM-3 interceptor, which has been successfully tested over the last year.

The third stage of Juniper Cobra began on Sunday with interoperability tests of the Arrow-2 and the PAC-2 systems. The Arrow-2 is a medium-tier interceptor developed by Israel and the United States. The PAC-2 was developed by the United States and first supplied to Israel in 1991.

An Israeli military statement released on late Tuesday detailed the four stages of the exercise. The fourth and final stage of Juniper Cobra will end with the launching of PAC-2 interceptors toward unspecified aerial targets to certify the full integration of all systems.

The sources said Juniper Cobra features the improved PAC-2 Gem+ battery. The Gem+ is an upgraded version of the PAC-2 and its radar is said to be capable of distinguishing between an enemy missile warhead from debris.

Between 10 and 14 PAC-2 missiles will be fired at airborne targets, the statement said. The statement said the aim of the maneuvers is joint simulation, headquarters training and a live fire exercise.

"The exercise is designed to validate the interoperability of the two countries' air defense systems," the statement said. "The primary aim of the exercise is to improve the joint ability to intercept incoming enemy missiles launched at Israeli territory."

The sources said U.S. Army personnel have been authorized to compute missile trajectories and help aim the PAC-2 interceptors. The actual operation of the batteries would be done by Israeli Air Force personnel.

The exercise has tested a range of scenarios to determine the effectiveness of Israel's missile defense deployment. The sources said the deployment would consist of three PAC-2 missile batteries around Tel Aviv, at least one in Haifa and two other PAC-2 batteries to protect strategic installations in other areas of the country once they arrive from Germany.

Israel has deployed two Arrow-2 missile defense batteries along the coast. One is at an air force base in Palmahim south of Tel Aviv. The other is west of the coastal city of Hadera.

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