Air Defense: Magic Wand Replacing Patriot


December 6, 2011: Germany has agreed to lend Israel a Patriot anti-aircraft system radar so that the radars in Israel's six Patriot batteries can be sent back to the United States for upgrades. Each Patriot battery is manned by about a hundred troops, and contains a radar, plus four launchers. A battery can fire two types of Patriot missile. The $3.3 million PAC 3 missile is smaller than the anti-aircraft version (PAC 2), thus a Patriot launcher can hold sixteen PAC 3 missiles, versus four PAC 2s. A PAC 2 missile weighs about a ton, a PAC 3 weighs about a third of that. The PAC 3 has a shorter range (about 20 kilometers) versus 70 kilometers for the anti-aircraft version.

Israel is not upgrading its Patriot system software to handle PAC 3 missiles, because the current upgrade will enable PAC 2 missiles to handle shorter range ballistic missiles. Israel already has three batteries (eight launchers each) of Arrow anti-missile missiles for stopping longer range ballistic missiles.

Israel is developing its own David's Sling/Magic Wand air and missile defense system as a replacement for Patriot. The missiles in this system have a longer range (300 kilometers) and better capabilities. The American manufacturer of Patriot is cooperating with an Israeli firm to develop and produce Magic Wand. 

Earlier this year, there were successful tests of the Stunner missiles (yet another development of the Israeli Python heat seeking air-to-air missile) to be used by Magic Wand. Stunner apparently came out of the work to develop the Spyder anti-aircraft missile.

Spyder is a mobile short range system using, as many such systems do these days, air-to-air missiles. Spyder launchers (truck mounted, with four box like launch cells each) can carry either the Python 5 heat seeking missile (3.22 meters/ten feet long, 105 kg/231 pounds, with a range of 15 kilometers) or the Derby radar guided missile (3.6 meters/11.2 feet long, 122 kg/267 pounds, with a range of 65 kilometers). The Derby is actually a larger Python, with more fuel and a different guidance system. Stunner appears to be a slightly longer Spyder/Derby missile, with dual seekers in the nose.

Each Spyder system has four missile launcher trucks, a radar truck, and a missile re-supply truck. Each system costs about $11 million. The Spyder radar system has a maximum range of 100 kilometers. The missiles can hit targets as high as 9 kilometers (28,000 feet) and as low as 20 meters (65 feet). With boosters (to increase speed at launch) and the right seekers, a modified Spyder could take down incoming long-range rockets. Magic Wand depends on longer range radars to get target location and speed information to the Spyder/Magic Wand launchers. Once launched, the Stunner is guided to the general location of the incoming rocket, until the Stunner's on-board sensors pick it up, and then home in and destroy the long range rocket.

Stunner and Magic Wand are meant to complement the Iron Dome anti-rocket system, which can take down rockets with a range of up to 70 kilometers. Iron Dome has a unique feature in which the radar system computes where the incoming rocket will land. If the rocket will not hit an inhabited area, it will be ignored. Otherwise, an interceptor missile will be fired. Stunner will be used against larger rockets that will be aimed (by Syria or Hezbollah) at large urban areas, and these will almost always get a Stunner fired at them. This is part of the Magic Wand system for defending Israelis from rocket attacks. Magic Wand is expected to be ready for service in 2-3 years and would eventually replace the 17 Hawk anti-aircraft batteries as well.





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