TEL AVIV Ñ 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.