Our Defense Department is Offensive
By Joel D. Joseph
The Iranian attack on U.S. bases in Iraq demonstrates that we do not have adequate defensive capability. We relied on early detection of incoming missiles and getting personnel to underground shelters before the incoming missiles struck. Where were the Patriot Missile batteries needed to shoot down incoming missiles?
Patriot Missiles Don't Work Well
Unfortunately, Patriot Missiles have a history of failure. On March 25, 2018, Houthi forces in Yemen fired seven missiles at Riyadh. Saudi Arabia confirmed the launches and asserted that it successfully intercepted all seven with U.S. Patriot Missiles. Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California reported in Foreign Policy magazine:
This wasn't true. It's not just that falling debris in Riyadh killed at least one person and sent two more to the hospital. There's no evidence that Saudi Arabia intercepted any missiles at all. And that raises uncomfortable questions not just about the Saudis, but about the United States, which seems to have sold them and its own public a lemon of a missile defense system.
Social media images showed Saudi Patriot batteries firing interceptors. But videos demonstrated that Patriot Missiles were failures. One interceptor exploded catastrophically just after launch, while another made a U-turn in midair and then came screaming back at Riyadh, where it exploded on the ground. The Middlebury Institute of International Studies found that the Patriot missiles used in Saudi Arabia were largely ineffective.
According to a House Committee on Government Operations investigation, there was not enough evidence to conclude that there had been anyintercepts. "There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War," a summary of the investigations concluded dryly, "and there are some doubts about even these engagements."
Theodore Postol, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a missile defense expert, headed a group that assessed the effectiveness of the Patriot missile defense system installed in Israel at the end of the first Gulf War. While figures at the time reported a resounding success Postol told Al Jazeera that although officials claimed that 94 percent of Scud and al-Hussein missiles were shot down he estimates the real figure was "probably zero."
Despite that the fact that U.S. officials confirmed that there had been no successful intercepts, in November, 2017, President Donald Trump had a very different take: "Our system knocked the missile out of the air," Trump told reporters the following day. "That's how good we are. Nobody makes what we make, and now we're selling it all over the world." This is a theme President Trump has returned to again and again. When asked about the threat from North Korea's nuclear-armed missiles, Trump said, "We have missiles that can knock out a missile in the air 97 percent of the time, and if you send two of them, it's going to get knocked down." Trump has repeatedly given every indication that he believes missile defenses will protect the United States.
Israel has had more battlefield experience with the Patriot Missile system than any other country. It has had to deal with hundreds of deadly incoming projectiles from the Gaza Strip. Because of Israel's vulnerability, it has improved the Patriot Missile and incorporated it into its "David's Sling Weapon System (DSWS)." The name David's Sling comes from the biblical story of David defeating Goliath. Defense News reported, "With hit-to-kill precision, the joint U.S.-Israel David's Sling Weapon System (DSWS) demonstrated . . . (in December, 2015) its ability to destroy salvos of heavy long-range rockets and short-range ballistic missiles during a series of developmental tests.
An early version of David's Sling was used in July, 2018 to intercept ballistic missiles launched from Syria. Two Russian-made SS-21 missiles, fired as a result of internal fighting in Syria, were successfully shot down over northern Israeli airspace.
In November, 2019, when Palestinian terrorists launched 400 rockets into Israel, the "Iron Dome" anti-missile system using David's Sling shot down most of them. According to Mossaic, an Israeli magazine, since the system went into operation in 2011, it has intercepted 1,500 rockets and established a 90-percent success rate.
The United States Should Use David's Sling
The United States provided funding that allowed Israel to improve its missile defense system. President Trump has claimed that the U.S. has the best military in the world and the best equipment. This is clearly false. Our troops are sitting ducks at bases in Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Congress must provide funding to purchase David's Sling and other Israeli technology so that our military bases around the world are protected from Iranian, North Korean or other incoming missiles. As in football, a gooddefense is more important than a good offense.
Our Defense Department needs to put more emphasis on Defense, to protect our troops in the field.