Israel seeks space weapons & more warfare


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Israeli Official Urges Space-Based Weapons
11 January 2005

HERZLIYA, Israel - Israel's top lawmaker for defense and security affairs has 
called for the development and deployment of space-based weapons as part of an 
integrated sea, air and space force designed to deliver decisive victory in 
future full-fledged conventional wars.

In a rare public discussion on Israel's military use of space, Yuval Steinitz, 
chairman of the Israel's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, said the nation 
must compensate for its lack of strategic depth on land by expanding use of sea-
and space-based attacks.

Specifically, Steinitz urged defense and industry officials to consider future 
developments of anti-satellite missiles, satellite-attacking lasers and 
ship-based missiles "that can strike the skies."

" In Israel, our strategic Achilles' heel is our miniscule geographical size," 
Steinitz told a Dec. 22 symposium sponsored by the Israeli Space Society and the
Fisher Institute for Strategic Air and Space Studies. "This lack of ground 
territory - and our obligation to defend the homeland from attack - drives the 
need to develop a strategic envelope of air, sea and space forces not only for 
defense, but for attack."

In his lecture, "Space and Israel's National Security," Steinitz outlined four 
worldwide trends in the militarization of space:

€ Use of satellites for intelligence and communications.
€ Satellite-guided weaponry.
€ Anti-satellite and satellite defense systems.
€ Space-to-ground means of attack.

" We can draw many lessons from the evolution of air warfare," Steinitz said in 
an interview. "Just as the airplane evolved from an intelligence gathering 
platform to a self-protected precision attack system, so should the satellite - 
in the years ahead - be maximized for all kinds of missions."

Citing proposed space-based weaponry programs in the United States and 
elsewhere, Steinitz said Israel must not ignore trends and technologies that can
extend the battlefield beyond the atmosphere.

Tal Inbar, vice president of the Israeli Space Society and research fellow at 
Israel's Fisher Institute of Strategic Air and Space Studies, said, "This is the
first time an Israeli official publicly talked about the need for Israel to 
develop its own space warfare capabilities such as ASAT [anti-satellite], 
radiation weapons and so on."

And while Steinitz conceded that his exhortations for a militarized, tightly 
integrated sea, air and space force was merely "my personal vision, at this 
point," he said he would use his influential committee chairmanship to push for 
greater space-related funding. "What we're seeing today is just the beginning 
spark of a new kind of warfare that warrants a new kind of defense doctrine and 
organizational structure," Steinitz said.

" In the long term, it should be possible to consider segregating the [Israel 
Defense Forces] into two arms: the Ground Forces arm and the Envelope Forces, 
which I envision as a combined sea, air and space arm that ensures strategic 
depth for deterrence and defense," Steinitz said.

Israel's technological advantage over regional adversaries will allow it to 
determine where and how the next major war will be fought, he said.

" The other side faces a military handicap when compared to Israel, but it can 
use its borders to try - through primitive means like Scud missiles, long-range 
artillery and guerrilla tactics - to threaten Israeli territory. Israel cannot 
allow itself to forsake its ground forces, but it also cannot permit itself to 
be dragged into a land war. Therefore, it is beneficial to push the war into the
air, sea and space."

In the event that Israeli air bases and critical military facilities come under 
enemy attack, Steinitz said Israel would have to rely on assets deployed at sea 
and in space.

" Sea and space assets don't require physical contact with the homeland, and so 
they are more efficient and survivable in the event of conventional war."

The committee chairman disparaged conventional wisdom that Israel no longer 
faces the threat of large conventional wars involving massive ground attacks.

Some Reservations

While Steinitz's call for Israel's exploitation of space resonated among many of
the officials at the event, his belief that sea- and space-based assets would 
contribute as much or even more than airborne capabilities rang hollow among the
air-power enthusiasts.

" I have serious reservations about the doctrine mapped out tonight," David 
Ivry, former commander of the Israel Air Force, said in response to Steinitz' 

Ivry, a former director-general of Israel's MoD who administered a significant 
portion of Israel's military space program in the 1980s and 1990s, warned 
against over-reliance on satellites, given Israel's spotty track record in 
successfully inserting spacecraft into orbit.

Alluding for the first time that Israel suffered more than the two publicly 
known launch failures - one involving the Ofeq-4 in 1998 and the other last 
September with the failed Ofeq-6 launch - Ivry said, "We've had more satellites 
on the ground than in space. . The failures of satellites over time were too 
frequent, and it will be very difficult to build support for reliance on space."

More than 150 nations, including Russia, China, Canada and members of the 
European Union, are pressing for a permanent ban on weapons in space that goes 
well beyond the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which first codified "the peaceful use 
of outer space" and outlawed military bases or weapons of mass destruction in 
orbit. Annual attempts to update the treaty to include ASAT and other 
space-based weapons remain unsuccessful, largely due to opposition from the 
United States.

" Israel is one of the very few nations of the world that routinely abstains 
from voting for a resolution to ban weapons in space," noted Theresa Hitchens, 
vice president of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information, a public 
policy think tank.

" The assumption has always been that Israel did so to demonstrate political 
support for Washington ... But this news that serious people in Israel are 
seriously pushing for weaponizing space is highly disturbing, and shows that 
thinking in the United States is starting to corrupt the policies and doctrine 
of other space-faring nations," she said.

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