Iron Dome 2021

If a Chinese Spy Balloon Flew over Israel

Consider this: if China sent one of its high-tech surveillance balloons over Israel, what would happen?

The answer: Israel would have sounded air raid sirens telling its citizens to go into shelters. It would then fire an air defense missile to take the balloon down. No hand-wringing. No waiting. No lies. Just eliminate the threat.

Israel has an extensive air defense system consisting of a high-low mix. That includes the Arrow 3 which can knock out ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere; David’s Sling which is designed to intercept enemy planes, drones, tactical ballistic missiles, medium-to-long-range rockets, and cruise missiles and;  Iron Dome which can kill short-range rockets, drones and cruise missiles.

Recently, Israel has moved to better integrate its air defense system so it can hand off kill responsibilities based on the type of threat detected.

By contrast, the US has almost no air defenses, leaving the American people vulnerable to everything from drones to rockets to ICBMs. The one continental air defense system deployed is called the Ground Based Interceptor.

There are two units for this system, one in Alaska at Greely, and the other at Vandenberg Air Base in California.  In total there are around 44 missiles available for defense, but reportedly they don’t work reliably and there are plans to fix them in the future.

Meanwhile, GBI can only protect a small part of the United States from North Korean and Chinese missiles.

The US also has the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, with a unit ready for deployment based at Fort Bliss, Texas. THAAD is in Hawaii and also on Guam. The US also has put a system in Korea and there are THAAD systems in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

THAAD can defend an area of around 125 miles (201 kilometers) meaning that the system is best deployed close to where it can intercept enemy missiles.

It is not particularly well suited for homeland defense, although it could protect sensitive installations such as strategic missile bases or the US capital. THAAD’s intercept performance in tests is mixed, although in recent tests THAAD has performed better.

At sea, the US has the AEGIS ballistic missile defense system mounted on Ticonderoga Class cruisers and Arleigh Burke destroyers. The Biden administration has announced it is decommissioning the cruisers, weakening America’s at-sea air defense capabilities.

Read the rest at Asia Times.

Stephen Bryen is a Senior Fellow at Yorktown Institute.

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