US, Israel to test Nautilus anti-rocket system tomorrow

The test is to dynamically follow a rocket in flight.

Israel's Ministry of Defense and the US Army will test the Nautilus anti-rocket system at the White Sands missile range, New Mexico, tomorrow.

The test is to dynamically follow a rocket in flight. If successful, the Nautilus laser gun will attempt to intercept the rocket.

The Nautilus laser gun is a joint US-Israel program to intercept aircraft and rockets. Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) is the chief contractor. The participating Israeli subcontractors are Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), Rafael (Israel Armament Development Company), El-Op Electro-Optics Industries, and Tadiran Electronic Systems.

The Nautilus program was launched in 1995 as a joint effort by the Ministry of Defense armaments R&D administration and the US Army. Israel's interest in the system is to defend against Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon against Kiryat Shmona and other Galilee communities.

Early tests of the Nautilus tested its target acquisition and monitoring capabilities. It shot down a Katyusha in a test in February 1996.

Following this success, then-US President Bill Clinton and then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres decided to develop the Pillar of Fire mobile laser gun. Interceptions tests of this system began in June 2000. In September 2000, the system intercepted two Katyushas, and has subsequently shot down 28 Katyushas and five 152-mm artillery shells.

The need for the Nautilus has increased as Hizbullah has procured 10,000 rockets with ranges of up to 70 kms, capable of reaching all of northern Israel, including Haifa Bay. During the intifada, the Palestinians have also fired rockets and mortars against Israel.

Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on April 29, 2004

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