Here are U.S. soldiers during a joint exercise with the Patriot anti-missile system in Tel Aviv, yesterday, October 24. This is part of the large joint missile defense exercise of the IDF and the U.S. Army.
The Patriot missile system is designed to detect, target and then hit incoming missiles. Thise missiles are often not more than 10 long and flying faster than the speed of sound.
The Patriot is a guided missile, with an infrared seeker that’s sensitive to engine heat. A ground-based, high performance radar finds, identifies and track the targets, and can lock on it when it’s as far away as 50 miles. An incoming missile flying at 5 times the speed of sound is going at about one mile per second. Once the missile is detected, the system makes automatic detection and launching decisions. Humans are just too slow for that one.
Back in the first Gulf War, the Patriots’ performance left much to be desired. The House Government Operations Subcommittee on Legislation and National Security reported that the “Patriot missile system was not the spectacular success in the Persian Gulf War that the American public was led to believe. There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War, and there are some doubts about even these engagements. The public and the United States Congress were misled by definitive statements of success issued by administration and Raytheon representatives during and after the war.”
A Fifth Estate documentary quotes former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens as saying the Israeli government was so dissatisfied with the performance of the missile defense, it wanted to launch its own military retaliation on Iraq, despite American objectio (the U.S. was worried about reactions from Arab members of the Coalition of the Willing).
Obviously, much has been improved in two-plus decades – let’s hope. And also let’s hope those young men are having a good stay in Tel Aviv. It’s an amazing city with cheap bike rentals…