Israel explores forming ground-ground missile unit

By Arie Egozi

The ongoing war between the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and the Iranian terror proxies in Gaza and Lebanon may give a boost to the idea of forming a dedicated ground-ground missiles unit – this time under the command of the Israeli Air Force (IAF). The original idea was to form such a unit as part of the IDF's artillery corps, which now operates one such battalion on a limited scale. The plan refers to much larger formations with a variety of ground-ground missiles.

 

The idea of forming a dedicated ground-ground missiles unit in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) has been put aside. Some years ago, the idea was brought up by then Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and has not materialized. The former minister made public the fact that he is determined to try and get the needed funds for the special unit. As expected, the news created severe opposition from the Israeli Air Force. This opposition is based on the fact that if such a unit is formed, it will affect the procurement budget of the Israeli Air Force (IAF).

 

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Some experts say that when Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza have a huge number of ground-ground rockets, the IDF should deploy more versions of ground-ground missiles. This is to hit rocket launchers if some of the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) bases are targeted and hit in the first hours of a future wide-scale confrontation. According to updated assessments, Hezbollah currently possesses between 140,000 – 160,000 rockets of different types, most of them Iranian-made, that can hit almost any point in Israel. Hamas has some thousand rockets, including long-range ones. These are currently launched into Israel but intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.

The idea that will be evaluated after the end of the war is to form the ground-ground missile unit as part of the IAF that is operating the multi-layered air defense system that includes the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow. A senior source told Defense Industry Europe that such a unit within the IAF makes a lot of sense. “The existing sensors that serve the air defense systems will enable the ground-ground missile unit to get the needed data in real-time and act to suppress further attacks.”

 

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In recent years, the ground division of Elbit Systems has developed different types of ground-ground missiles. One example is the Predator Hawk rocket. Launch tests will start at the end of 2023 and deliveries in 2024. The Predator Hawk is described by Elbit as a ground-ground missile designed to destroy high-priority targets in ranges of up to 300 km. According to the company, the supersonic missile carries a 140 kg warhead and features a CEP of fewer than 10 meters.

Elbit has taken the ground-ground missiles some steps forward by developing the PULS. The PULS is a launcher carried by a heavy truck and capable of launching different types of missiles, to ranges of up to 300 km. According to the official Elbit brochure, “The multi-purpose launcher features two PODS; each POD is designed for a specific rocket type: the Accular 122mm (18 rockets) with a range of up to 35km, the Accular 160mm (10 rockets) with a range of up to 40km, the EXTRA (4 rockets) with a range of up to 150km, and the Predator Hawk (2 rockets) with a range of up to 300km.”

 

 

The PULS creates interest in many countries and recently it was reported that the Royal Army of the Netherlands is going to equip its ground unit with the Elbit system. Air-launched missiles are also in high demand and Elbit is also working on upgrades for its air-launched weapons. Based on the Delilah air-launched decoy, the company has developed an air-ground missile that, according to sources, is being used in many Israeli airstrikes against targets in Lebanon and Syria. According to the company, this missile, also described as a loitering weapon system, can be launched from fighter aircraft, helicopters, ships, and also from the ground. The system has a 250 km range and carries a 30 kg warhead.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has developed the Lora (long-range artillery) missile with a range of more than 400 km. The Israeli defense industry has developed some more types of ground-ground missiles, but these are highly classified.

 

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