• Anti-Missile Tech Keeps Getting Better: Israel’s Arrow System intercepts a Syrian Missile (UPDATED)

    As more and more bad actors get intermediate- and long-range missiles, the technology to intercept them becomes more and more important.

    The technology is significantly different from that used to intercept short-range missiles, which Israel’s Iron Dome has used successfully many times, protecting civilians living near the Gaza Strip.

    Israel’s Arrow Anti-Missile System is designed for these intermediate- and long-range threats. Last Friday, it was used for the first time in combat, against a missile fired from Syria, probably a Russian SA-5 (aka S-200).

    BBC report here: “Israel’s Arrow anti-missile system ‘in first hit'”  Times of Israel report here.

    What is the Arrow Anti-Missile System?

    Here is what Defense Industry Daily says:

    The Arrow project is a collaboration between Boeing and IAI [Israel Aerospace Industries] to produce the missile interceptors that accompany the required radars, satellites, command and control systems. . . .

    In general, the Israeli Arrow is a more advanced weapon than the Patriot and possesses far more range, undertaking high altitude interceptions and covering a wide area (est. 54 mile range, maximum altitude 30 miles for Arrow 2) as a Theater Missile Defense system. Unlike the USA’s THAAD, PAC-3, or SM-3 which all use “hit to kill” technology, Israel’s Arrow relies on a directed fragmentation warhead to destroy enemy missiles. –Defense Industry Daily

    Here’s a clear visual representation:

    The Arrow System and Israel’s Tough Neighborhood: Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran

    A skilled Israeli observer, Ofer Bavly, offers his concise observations on the Arrow system and its use to protect Israel against regional threats:

    On Friday night Israel for the first time launched an Arrow missile under operational circumstances. The event occurred as the Israeli Air Force was launching an attack on a convoy carrying long-range missiles and other advanced weaponry from Syria to the Hezbollah terror organization in Lebanon. While Israeli attacks on Hezbollah convoys are not a new phenomenon, Israel usually does not publicly admit such attacks and sometimes even denies them so as not to force the hand of Syria or Hezbollah in retaliation. This attack was different in that as the jets were making their way back into Israeli territory, Syria launched surface-to-air missiles at them. It is not common for Syria to try and shoot down Israeli jets. The Russian-made missiles that they launched, SA-5, are not modern or very efficient. As such, they did not at any time endanger the Israeli pilots. However, computer models tracking the missiles showed that they would be falling in Israeli territory, so the Air Force decided to intercept them using the Arrow missile. The interception was successful and was the first such operational interception since the Arrows came online. The system is designed to handle more modern and more efficient missiles including those that would exit the atmosphere and would be intercepted in outer space. Debris from the interception fell in two locations inside Jordan. Sounds of the explosions could be heard in Jerusalem and along the Jordan Valley.

    Although tested extensively on dummy targets in the past, this is the first time that the Arrow is used against an actual threat.

    The event is also significant for the fact that Syria tried to shoot down Israeli jets, a rare move which may signify that the Assad regime, now propped up and supported by Russia and Iran, feels emboldened enough to attack Israeli planes. This may be a step up in the level of Syrian belligerency towards Israel, which may affect future Israeli operations in the north, or it may be an isolated case. In any case, the use of SA-5 missiles which are relatively old and ineffective against modern jet fighters, may show that Syria does not have more advanced anti-aircraft missiles. So while the event revealed an important Israeli card, it also exposed the weakness of the Syrian army.

    –Ofer Bavly, private communication (published with his permission)

    Beyond the threat from Syria and Hezbollah lies a far bigger threat: Iran, which is working closely with North Korea to develop effective long-range missiles and, many fear, the miniaturized nuclear weapons to fit on them.

    UPDATE: Blake Fleisher on Missile Defense in Israel: From Reluctant Acceptance to Full Embrace

    Fleisher, a policy analyst at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Washington), comments:

    Arrow was Israel’s first missile defense system and at the time the Israelis were skeptical about the project because it didn’t fit into their offensive doctrine.

    They supposedly took it on to benefit from US aid (Reagan’s SDI), but the catalyst was Saddam Hussein firing ballistic missiles in the 80s and 90s.

    Ironically, today Israel uses lots of missile defense and you can’t imagine the country without it. –Blake Fleisher, 

    For those interested in more detail, Fleisher recommends a study from the US Army War College:

    Jean-Loup Samaan, Another Brick in the Wall: The Israeli Experience in Missile Defense (PDF online here)

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    Thanks to

    • Ofer Bavly
    • Jay Tcath
    • Blake Fleisher
    • Robert Lieber

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, February 22

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Two fascinating articles by Paul Roderick Gregory investigating Russian hacking (Forbes.com)

    The media’s focus on Trump’s Russian connections ignores the much more extensive and lucrative business relationships of top Democrats with Kremlin-associated oligarchs and companies. Thanks to the Panama Papers, we know that the Podesta Group (founded by John Podesta’s brother, Tony) lobbied for Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank. “Sberbank is the Kremlin, they don’t do anything major without Putin’s go-ahead, and they don’t tell him ‘no’ either,” explained a retired senior U.S. intelligence official. According to a Reuters report, Tony Podesta was “among the high-profile lobbyists registered to represent organizations backing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.”  …

    That’s not all: The busy Podesta Group also represented Uranium One, a uranium company acquired by the Russian government which received approval from Hillary Clinton’s State Department to mine for uranium in the U.S. and gave Russia twenty percent control of US uranium. –Paul Roderick Gregory for Forbes

    Gregory is a professor of economics at the University of Houston, specializing in Russia, and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution

     “Actually, Sweden is having big trouble with Mideast refugees,” writes Rich Lowry, who focuses on economic issues rather than crime  (New York Post)

    By welcoming a historic number of asylum-seekers proportionate to its population, Sweden has indeed embarked on a vast social experiment that wasn’t well thought-out and isn’t going very well. The unrest in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby after police made an arrest the other night underscored the problems inherent in Sweden’s immigration surge.

    Sweden’s admirable humanitarianism is outstripping its capacity to absorb newcomers. …

    There’s a stark gap in the labor-force-participation rate between the native-born (82 percent) and the foreign-born (57 percent). As the Migration Policy Institute points out, Sweden is an advanced economy with relatively few low-skills jobs to begin with. …

    The fiscal cost is high. According to Swedish economist Tino Sanandaji, the country spends 1.5 percent of its GDP on the asylum-seekers, more than on its defense budget. Sweden is spending twice the entire budget of the United Nations high commissioner responsible for refugees worldwide. Pressed for housing, Sweden spends as much on sheltering 3,000 people in tents as it would cost to care for 100,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan. –Rich Lowry for New York Post

    ◆ There is better news from Sweden: “Confused Randy Elk Mounts Wooden Elk in Swede’s Garden” (The Local, Sweden)

    Actual quote from the article:

    “I shouted at him ‘get lost’, but he didn’t give a toss,” [79-year-old Ove] Lindqvist said, explaining that the elk only left once it was content. –The Local

    Apple iPhones working for real-time facial recognition to log in  (Fox Tech)

    Amid rumors that the iPhone 8 will incorporate advanced facial recognition features, the Hebrew-language website Calcalist (via Times of Israel) is reporting that Apple recently acquired Realface, an up-and-coming Israeli startup with impressive real-time facial recognition software.

    Lending credence to rumors that the iPhone 8 may forgo the use of Touch ID in favor of facial recognition, Realface’s software is said to be sophisticated enough such that it can reliably be used as a foundation for mobile-based biometric authentication. –Fox Tech 

    The Times of Israel story on the buy-out is here.

    Israel is a high-tech powerhouse, and Apple has moved to capitalize on those capabilities, purchasing four Israeli high-tech firms in recent years.

     Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel Prize economist and a true great, has died, aged 95  N (New York Times)

    When Professor Arrow received the award in 1972, [Paul] Samuelson wrote, “The economics of insurance, medical care, prescription drug testing — to say nothing of bingo and the stock market — will never be the same after Arrow.”

    Professor Arrow — a member of an extended family of distinguished economists, including Professor Samuelson and Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary and adviser to President Barack Obama — generated work that was technically forbidding even to mathematically oriented colleagues.

    But over the decades, economists have learned to apply his ideas to the modern design of insurance products, financial securities, employment contracts and much more. –New York Times

    The extended obituary concludes with a wonderful story about his prodigious, wide-ranging learning:

    Eric Maskin, a Harvard economist and fellow Nobel winner, told of a good-natured conspiracy waged by junior faculty to get the better of Professor Arrow, even if artificially. They all agreed to study the breeding habits of gray whales — a suitably abstruse topic — and gathered at an appointed date at a place where Professor Arrow would be sure to visit.

    When, as expected, he showed up, they were talking out loud about the theory by a marine biologist — last name, Turner — which purported to explain how gray whales found the same breeding spot year after year. As Professor Maskin recounted the story, “Ken was silent,” and his junior colleagues amused themselves that they had for once bested their formidable professor.

    Well, not so fast.

    Before leaving, Professor Arrow muttered, “But I thought that Turner’s theory was entirely discredited by Spencer, who showed that the hypothesized homing mechanism couldn’t possibly work.” –New York Times

     

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