While Israel is still years away from developing a Kassam rocket defense system, Great Britain announced last week it is deploying a new antirocket and antimortar cannon in Iraq.
Britain's Ministry of Defense has decided to spend 500 million on new protective equipment for troops stationed in Iraq, according to media reports last week, including a rapid-fire cannon called the C-RAM (Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar) that reportedly has a 70 percent to 80 percent success rate in intercepting incoming shells and rockets.
The first C-RAM, manufactured by Raytheon, was sent to Iraq last year and is used by the Americans to protect the Green Zone in Baghdad. The C-RAM is a variant of the American Vulcan Phalanx, a 20mm cannon designed to defend navy ships from missiles. The cannon is controlled by radar that detects and locks in on incoming enemy projectiles.
While the C-RAM is fully operational and would be available for immediate deployment in, say, Sderot, which has been hit by hundreds of Kassam rockets over the past three weeks, Israel's Defense Ministry has decided not to purchase the system. Instead, it is investing its resources in the "Iron Dome" - an antirocket missile system under development by the Rafael Armament Development Authority and expected to be operational by 2011.
Uzi Rubin, a missile expert and a former director of the ministry's Homa Missile Defense Agency, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the C-RAM was capable of providing medium-level protection for places such as Sderot. According to Rubin, four C-RAM systems - at a cost of $15 million a piece - could effectively defend Sderot from Kassam rockets.
While also calling for the development of a laser-based system to defend Sderot in the long term, Rubin said the C-RAM - which is capable of protecting isolated military outposts and installations - could provide an effective defense in Sderot and should have been bought by Israel years ago.
"It is a system that has proven to be quite successful," he said. "It disturbs me that nothing was done for years to locate and procure or develop a system that works."
But sources in the Defense Ministry said the C-RAM system was checked by its Research & Development Directorate (MAFAT) and was found to be unsuitable for Sderot. While recognizing the C-Ram's relatively high success rate, defense officials told the Post the system could only protect isolated areas of several hundred square meters.