BPI may re-emerge in Israel as extra piece of BMD jigsaw
There has been a revival of support in Israel for laser rocket interceptor and boost-phase intercept (BPI) technology.
While BPI remains a distant prospect, it is clear that Israel is exploring how to add more layers of defence against the looming threat posed by Iranian ballistic missiles.
For example, there are plans to build and launch nanosatellites that will be launched in swarms to achieve almost real-time coverage of areas 'of interest'.
Israeli sources also mentioned to Shephard that a BPI system could make use of the IR search and track sensors on Israeli Air Force F-35As (pictured).
However, there is no system in place to counteract the Iranian long-range ballistic missile programme.
In spite of the high kill rate achieved by Iron Dome against rockets, the capability of Hamas to launch salvos led Israeli researchers to persist in investigating a laser-based layer of defence.
This also encouraged Israeli advocates of BPI to revive their effort. 'Revive' is the operative word, as planning began in 1993 with the Israeli Boost Intercept System.
This envisaged the use of a long-endurance UAV to hit ballistic missiles seconds after launch. The UAV would be armed with a modified air-to-air missile called Missile Optimized Anti-Ballistic.
Opposition to BPI is strongest among Israelis who were involved in developing the current multilayered BMD system.
However, since the 1990s Israel has developed highly advanced UAVs, including large platforms such as the Heron-TP with its 26m wingspan. Israel has also developed very advanced missiles, some of which remain highly classified.
Supporters of BPI argue that it has many advantages over mid-course intercept. For example, whereas a mid-course interceptor must hit a small, relatively cool and high-speed warhead, with BPI the target is larger, hotter and climbing slowly.
On the other hand, Uzi Rubin, an ex-head of the missile defense directorate in the Israel MoD, said that ‘in order to use BPI, you have to be close to the site from where the missiles are launched and at the right time. This is portrayed as a magic solution, but it won't work.’
Supporters of an anti-rocket laser weapon are more sanguine about BPI. Brig Gen (retired) Zvi Shur, for example, said that two laser-equipped converted passenger aircraft ‘can function as the first line of protection when intelligence points to a possible ballistic missile launch’.
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