TEL AVIV - Germany recently delivered a Patriot air defense radar to Israel as a cost-free loaner pending conclusion of a three- to four-year refurbishment in the United States of Israel's own AN/MPQ-53 radars for its PAC-2 force.
German, U.S. and Israeli sources confirmed the trilateral cooperation, aimed at filling potential gaps in Israeli air defense coverage while Israel Air Force radars are being serviced at Fort Sill, Okla.
The loaner radar provided by the German Bundeswehr arrived here in mid-October, shortly before the first of three Israeli Patriot radar sets was shipped to the United States for servicing. The German delivery marks an expansion of strategic cooperation with Israel, which received two full-up Patriot PAC-2 batteries from Luftwaffe stocks in 2003 in the run-up to the U.S.-led coalition war in Iraq.
Sources said it will take about a year to replace aging components of each radar, extend service life, and improve its ability to interoperate with U.S. European Command's Patriot batteries that participate in biannual U.S.-Israel exercises and could be rushed here for emergency deployment during wartime.
The refurbishment program is estimated at $15 million and will be funded through annual U.S. Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance to Israel. Israeli and German officials confirmed that the German loaner radar would remain here until the upgrade program is complete and all Israeli radars are redeployed and integrated with other elements of the Air Force's Air Defense Force.
"Germany has contributed to the air defense system of Israel since 2003 with the loan of two Patriot systems. Additional components are temporarily on loan to maintain the operational capability of the systems," said Lt. Col. Holger Neumann, a German MoD spokesman.
An Israel Air Force officer emphasized that the recently launched Patriot radar upgrade is more logistical in nature and is not aimed at converting Israel's PAC-2 air defense force to the PAC-3 ballistic missile intercepting configuration.
Israel has no plans to procure PAC-3 missile interceptors from Lockheed Martin, he said. Instead, the Air Defense Force is looking to deploy the David's Sling air and missile defense system now in development by Rafael and Raytheon.
Nevertheless, the Air Force officer said Israel "is looking very closely" at a so-called Config-3 program that would render its existing PAC-2 force more capable of operating with PAC-3 intercepting batteries.
No decision has been made on the estimated $60 million Config-3 program with Raytheon, producers of the Patriot radar, engagement control stations, launching units, and improved PAC-2 interceptor missiles.