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Cruise Missile Defense Homeland Israel, Virtual Roundtable, May 24, 2023

“We are on a great panel today, very excited about Israel, homeland Israel, my first opportunity to be in Israel was back in 1984 after I finished my rookie year playing the Redskins and came over and stayed in a kibbutz about 10 miles south of the Lebanon border, and there was conflict during that time. 

If you look back 40 years ago, we just celebrated that with President Reagan’s SDI speech. The biggest partner, our international partner that we did in the Strategic Defense Initiative was to sign an MOU with Israel, and the development of Israel in the Strategic Defense Initiative and the billions of dollars that we spent with them in developing missile defense capabilities was a tremendous investment but a tremendous return on investment that we’re seeing today on that.”

“I have a chance to have a couple great friends that I’ve shared with in Israel. I remember Brigadier General Shohat, seeing him when he was a battery commander on the Arrow system, and I remember meeting Yair when he was developing and in charge of the IMDO many years ago.” 

“We’re coming to you today, because we have a challenge in the world today on cruise missile defense architecture. We’re challenged to figure that out. We’ve been exposed by Russia and Ukraine, and in the Ukraine set, we’ve had to patch and MacGyver different systems together to try and beat that. We know Europe’s trying to figure out how to create a cruise missile defense architecture that fits in, that layers in all the way up to the top to the bottom.”

“We know in our country that the US Air Force just got assigned to create an architecture for cruise missile defense by the SECDEF and we know we’re trying to get that same issue in Guam.”

“It is a very pertinent problem that the world is working on, and we see Israel, who has perfected point defense better than anybody in the world under combat and proven system, layered system, that can see, identify, persistently all the threats, low and slow speed, and have effectors to be able to take that out and be able to do some remarkable things. I mean, the reload capability is also remarkable in what they’re able to do and the amount of volume that they’re able to take down. They’ve protected their people, nine million. They have protected their infrastructure. They have invested with us and they are the forward-leaning country in the world today on missile defense technology that’s applicable and combat-proven and out there defending populations from missile attack.”

“We want to, as an audience, we want to understand what the best lessons are and how those best lessons from Israel can apply to other areas of the world. I know it’s point defense but how can we best learn from what is going on in Israel?”

  • Mr. Riki Ellison, Cruise Missile Defense Homeland Israel, May 24, 2023

“Iran is known to be not only a manufacturer of cruise missiles but a proliferator in a variety of theaters like Yemen, those are missiles supplied by Iran to the Houthis, and they started … This is Quds missile, they started with Quds-1 and today we see two more generations of this vehicle and we already saw operational use of those types of cruise missiles back in 2019 when several such cruise missiles were fired upon Saudi Arabia, Aramco Installations, we saw combined attack of UAVs and cruise missiles in al-Khurais and in Abqaiq and they can actually cause a lot of damage, even though, the reliability, at least, of the first generation of those missiles were not so good, but now the Houthis in Yemen are equipped with large quantities of those missiles, which are manufactured in Iran using a lot of commercial off the shelf technologies, including a Chinese copy of a Czech Republic jet engine.“

“Just to summarize the statement at the opening of our discussion, we can see cruise missiles in other countries as well and, of course, from countries like China and Turkey and so on. We can see systems that are made by relatively advanced technologies and manufacturers but this is the poor man’s or the non-state weapon of choice that could project power for long range. It is not always easy, to say the least, to intercept those types of cruise missiles because of the relative low speed but also very low height so it could evade some radar systems like we saw in Saudi Arabia, for example.“

  • Mr. Tal Inbar, Cruise Missile Defense Homeland Israel, May 24, 2023

“I will try to take the conversation from Tal that he wisely said about the proliferation of the cruise missile threats. This is the type of threat that only two decades ago was only in the arsenal of a superpower.  The Tomahawk Interceptors in the shock and awe operations and so on and now we see this kind of threat as a common capability of state actors, non-state actors, manufactured by Turkey, Iran, Russia, North Korea, as Tal mentioned, and used by non-state actors and terrorist organizations as the long range kind of weapon.  That gives the characteristic of this type of threat, the low altitude and the slow velocity, the capability to attack from 360 degrees angle, and the accuracy of the impact on challenging the defender more than ever. We can see an improved system.”

“Maybe last but not least, I can mention the non-kinetic capability, the high power laser that are now in the maybe final process of development. This is the type of technology that we are dealing with for a few decades in order to field it. I believe that it hasn’t been mature yet as an entire system. And my personal view is that because of the limitation of this type of technology, it can only be a complimentary system to other kinetic systems, but not a standalone one. Either it’s a ground based high power laser, or of course the preferred way of airborne laser that also is in the process for a few decades now, which can be more relevant, but has some other operational challenges in order to field it in the right way on the battlefield.”

“Of course, I would like to take the opportunity to appreciate what Riki just mentioned, the investment of the US administration over the years in the capability of the state of Israel, to defend the state of Israel. This type of system not only saved lives, but saved a lot of infrastructure damage. And I think it’s a return on investment only in eliminating the damage to infrastructure is a positive ROI. And from time to time, I think it also helped to reduce the aggression between both sides because of the capability to eliminate some damages and casualties from both sides.”

  • Brigadier General (Ret.) Shachar Shohat, Cruise Missile Defense Homeland Israel, May 24, 2023

“The first one is, what is a cruise missile? Are we looking at Tomahawk, Tomahawk like, Kh-55, or scaled down like the Quds, Iranian Quds. Quds by the way is Jerusalem, we know where it’s directed to. And the answer is, yes, we refer to it. But what about the Shahed 131, 136, which is a delta wing type of, I would call it UAV, but it is being launched by a rocket, flying 10 to 15 hours to its target, 1,500 kilometers or even 2,500 kilometers. No communication, no signature, ELINT signature. It is also a high precision type of long range strike system, a cruise missile.”

“So air defense, or any other defense that needs to deal with those cruise missiles, needs to handle both the high subsonic, medium, slow, all types of signatures, all altitude, all at remote, and to be able to operate efficiently, and cost per kill should be reasonable. You can’t intercept Shahed 136 with a small motorcycle type of engine with a propeller with a $1 million type of interceptor, that’s not affordable.”

Then the area of defense, how much does it cost you to defend one square mile? And the answer is not as easy as we expect. Most of the CFOs of aerospace companies would love to have each threat have its own weapon systems that deal with it. From the government, I came both from industry and from the government, the government wants one fit all, and that’s not always the case. So at the end of my discussion, I would suggest to look at what we need to modify as simple as possible, the system, such as Iron Dome or David’s Sling in Israel, maybe some improvement in Patriot, to enable them to handle these types of threats.“

“Yes, no doubt that engaging or intercepting or detecting such birds needs eye in the sky. And how you have eyes in the sky, you need either an aircraft or a blimp, a tethered balloon. And yes, Israel developed with DECOM a large balloon, quite large, 117 meter length, compared to 74 on JLENS or 71, that carries sophisticated radar. Is this enough? Answer is no. You also need ground sensors, electro-optical ELINT radars, you need aircraft, you need all of these sets of sensors to create a single air situation picture that will enable you to engage. The issue is detection.“

  • Mr. Yair Ramati, Cruise Missile Defense Homeland Israel, May 24, 2023

“I tell you, nobody does it better than Israel, we all know this. They are the model for how to actually, as a nation, a whole of a nation, get after integrated air and missile defense. And as I look at that as a model for us, for our homeland, what we need to get after or for Guam which is part of our homeland, but obviously, it’s a standalone island, starting from the top, it’s policy. There’s got to be that national imperative, there’s got to be that push. And too often I think we focus on, we’re missing the forest for the trees.“

“We’re focusing, ‘How do we shoot down this or how do we shoot down that?’ And in Israel, it all starts with, “This is an existential threat and we’re going to start way left of bang and we’re going to try to interdict these things so the archer never even has anything to shoot at you.” And you see that, you see the willingness to see that, the policy level and the systems in place to get after that, and that’s how Israel starts it. They don’t even allow those guys to get the rockets and missiles, et cetera. 

I think we as a nation got to start thinking more about that rather than just in-game intercept. From there, there is the integration across all the various threats, the ability to see them, to sense and make sense and act. The sensors, you just brought up the F-35 and F-22. When I was over in Israel in January recently, it was great to see how they’re integrating the F-35 with all the ground based radars, with the unmanned sensors they have and pulling all this together so that they have a holistic picture so that they got that, they got the roles and responsibilities right.”

“They got somebody in charge, not a bunch of different people trying to figure out who’s in charge. They got somebody in charge, they got the sensors, they got the operations center and everybody at every level knows what their role is and that allows them to get after this. As soon as the wick is lit on a bad guy rocket or missile of any type coming towards them, they’re ready to go. A small UAS, et cetera. So I think there are many lessons that the US can take from this. We got to get the roles and missions fixed, we got to get the policy fixed. We got to get the sensors in place like Israelis have. And I guess at the end of the day, what I’d say is we got to get our ego out of the way. There’s a lot we can learn from partners large and small who have capabilities, who have tactics, techniques and procedures that we could put in place.”

“I think it starts with a sense of urgency, Riki. I mean, Israel is in a tough neighborhood and they’re scrapping and fighting every day to survive, to stay in existence as a state. They’re fighting people who don’t want them to exist. We do not have that sense of urgency. We have the two big moats called the Atlantic and Pacific and we’ve taken them for granted for way too long. So we’re starting to get a little bit more of a sense of urgency, we’re still out there. And then secondly, we got a lot of area to cover. You talk about JLENS, things like that. We’ve got to figure out how to leverage those types of sensors that are persistent and are affordable. And you can’t have F-35s flying all around your coast all the time, it’s just unobtanium, right?”

  • Major General (Ret.) Charles “Corky” Corcoran, Cruise Missile Defense Homeland Israel, May 24, 2023

“Corky nailed it with the coordination piece that while we may not be integrated across the board, we definitely have to be coordinated. I think Yair and Shachar Shohat, they both alluded to the cost effectiveness of engaging the right target with the right interceptor capability. And so ultimately it’s all about layering and a layered defense. If you can’t get left of launch, you’ve got to have the capability through layering to defend the critical assets in order to be successful and ultimately succeed. Thanks again, Riki, and I’ll pause there.”

  • Colonel (Ret.) Dave Shank, Cruise Missile Defense Homeland Israel, May 24, 2023

“Thank you. Thank you, gentlemen, I thought it was an engaging conversation. It’s certainly educational for the Israeli elements that you brought forward on the cruise missile defense and the challenges of getting to where we want to go. As Corky mentioned, as Shachar mentioned, as Yair mentioned, as Dave and Tal on it. So thank you very much. Shalom and peace be with you.”

  • Mr. Riki Ellison, Cruise Missile Defense Homeland Israel, May 24, 2023


Mr. Yair Ramati
Former Director, Israel Missile Defense Organization

Brigadier General (Ret.) Shachar Shohat
Former Commander, Israel Air Defense Forces

Major General (Ret.) Charles “Corky” Corcoran
Former Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, U.S. Air Force

Colonel (Ret.) Dave Shank
Former Commander, 10th AAMDC, U.S. Army

Mr. Tal Inbar
Research Fellow, MDAA

Mr. Riki Ellison
Chairman and Founder, MDAA

Click here to read the transcript from the virtual roundtable

Click here to view the virtual roundtable event

Mission Statement

MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.

MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.