Haaretz - Israel News - Analysis / Sky-high interception off the Californian coast
A couple of years ago those of us in Israel had to worry that it would be tested over our heads. That's when Saddam Hussein was still a threat. I wrote a column then about the Arrow for The Jewish Star and I'm posting it here again:
Does anybody remember Rowdy Yates? I certainly don't but I do remember the theme to "Rawhide", that great western t.v. serial (1959- 1966) starring a young Clint Eastwood as Yates. It was all about a cattle drive from San Antonio, Texas to Sedalia, Kansas , set in the wild west of the 1860's. The theme song was made famous to a later generation in the movie "The Blues Brothers" as the one and only western tune that Jake and Elroy knew how to play to save their necks behind the chicken wire.
The real subject of this article is the new Arrow anti-missile defence system that is hopefully going to save us in Israel from Saddam Hussein's missiles, which he'll probably let fly at us if and when he is attacked.
So why all this Rawhide stuff? It's because it has come to my knowledge- thanks again to Google- that Ronald Reagan's Secret Service code name was none other than "Rawhide ". If you couple that with the fact that the Arrow is a direct outgrowth of Reagan's "Star Wars" project, and Israel's participation in it, then the western twang of the chosen name, Arrow, and the Hollywood theme of the whole thing sounds like the prelude to one hell of a show!
Am I making this up? A Pentagon official was quoted in the New York Times on Sunday as follows: "It would be the first time in history that an interceptor that was developed strictly to shoot down incoming missiles is used. The Patriot used in 1991 was designed to shoot down airplanes and modified to give it some kind of antimissile capability. But from the start, the Arrow was built to intercept ballistic missiles. The whole world will be watching to see what happens, and we will be watching."
Well, we'll be watching too! There were two hundred and seventy one episodes of Rawhide over those seven years, fifty two minutes for each and every one. The Arrow will have somewhat less time to rope in them scuds. It takes about seven minutes for one to fly from Iraq to Israel. It'll be a quickie but a goodie!
In any case, the experts over here are saying that the Arrow has between a 90 and 95% chance of getting its target. That's not too bad. Alot depends on how many incoming missiles there are. Estimates are that Saddam's arsenal is limited enough as to not overtax the Arrow batteries. The Arrow works differently than the Patriot, which didn't work very well. The Green Pine radar system picks up the scud and a computer figures the coordinates. The Arrow is fired not automatically as in the Patriot system but according to the discretion of military officers. The Arrow explodes when coming within range of the incoming missile and destroys it, unlike the Patriot which attempted the much more difficult task of making a direct strike- like trying to hit a bullet with a bullet. The interception should be made high enough in the atmosphere that any chemical or biological payload would disintegrate harmlessly up above, but a nuclear payload might be a different story. A nuclear scenario however is not considered a threat at this time.
I like the Green Pine name. Has a kind of Zane Grey feel to it- or Bonanza. I think we'll be O.K.. Anyway, it beats chicken wire. The only thing that bothers me is why we always have to be the missile bait to try out these new systems. Makes you think of unpleasant things.
I suppose if the whole thing comes off well and the Arrow pulls through then it will be a great day of joy and celebration. America would then have its much desired and proven missile defense system and Israel would be free from the fear and threat of a missile attack. Saddam would be gone and maybe Iraq would become a beacon of democracy and freedom in the Arab world. Perhaps the sight of a free Iraq would cause a change of regime in Iran as well. These are apparently the hopes of some in the Bush Administration. Imagine, suddenly the whole Middle East transformed in this way. I wonder what that would mean for Israel.
To round out the whole thing, I've heard say that there are some who maintain that Rowdy Yates and his comrades never made it to Sedalia. There are others that say they most certainly did. Sooner or later the whole matter will get settled, despite the heavy shroud of mystery. Till next time...