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'Smarter bombs' will allow Israel to hit Lebanon with impunity.

Byline: Andrew Wander

Summary: Israel is set to buy a "smart-bomb" system that will allow its pilots to strike Lebanese cities without leaving Israeli airspace, defense industry insiders from the Jewish state have said.AaMilitary acquisition chiefs in Israel are considering buying a bolt-on-kit that converts ordinary bombs into satellite-guided "smart" weapons.

BEIRUT: Israel is set to buy a "smart-bomb" system that will allow its pilots to strike Lebanese cities without leaving Israeli airspace, defense industry insiders from the Jewish state have said.AaMilitary acquisition chiefs in Israel are considering buying a bolt-on-kit that converts ordinary bombs into satellite-guided "smart" weapons which can be launched up to 80 kilometers away from their target.

This would bring vast swathes of Lebanese territory into range for Israeli bombers without them having to leave their own airspace.

The news comes months after rumors that Hizbullah has acquired advanced anti-aircraft capabilities prompted fears in Israel that one of their planes could be shot down.

The system, known as JDAM-ER, is a conversion kit which contains a set of wings and a GPS system built into a specially designed tail section. The kit turns traditional free-fall bombs into guided weapons for a fraction of the cost of more advanced smart-bombs.

The conversion kits are attractive to pilots because they offer a "fire and forget" capability, meaning that the once they leave their aircraft, their flight to the target is automatic. Some other guided weapons require the aircraft crew to "fly" the bomb to its destination.Aa

Israel already uses a less advanced version of the kit which allows for the bombs to be released up to 20 kilometers from their target, but the upgrade will bring several major cities, including Beirut, into range.

The JDAM-ER is still being tested, but trials carried out by the Australian Air Force have encouraged Boeing, the American arms manufacturer that is hoping to sell the upgrade to Israel. Boeing officials say the new weapon will be available from 2010.

"This would provide Israel with unprecedented stand-off capabilities," an industry source told the Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post. "Planes would not even have to leave Israeli airspace to be able to hit targets in Syria and Lebanon."

Israel has used the standard version of the conversion kit since its introduction in 2000 and has recently modified all its F-15 fighter-bombers to accommodate the smart-bombs.Aa

During the 2006 war, Israel used its entire stockpile of the weapons in Lebanon, and received emergency shipments rushed from the United States to replenish its supplies. During the conflict, Israel enjoyed total air supremacy over Lebanese territory because Hizbullah did not have substantial anti-aircraft capabilities.

But Israeli analysts believe that Hizbullah may have since strengthened its arsenal to include anti-aircraft missiles. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah refused to confirm or deny the reports. "No one can expect me to stand up and say we possess new weapons or we don't," he said during a televised speech in August.

Israel continually violates Lebanese airspace to carry out what it claims are reconnaissance missions. Such overflights are in contravention of Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war, and have been condemned by the UN.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Dec 15, 2008
Words:546
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