A video circulating on social media and on Telegram showed a PAC-2 Patriot Air Defense system near Eilat according to users who posted and commented on it. “There were more batteries which I noticed later but they’re not in the video,” wrote Twitter user @Ignis-Fatum.
A separate Twitter account called ELINT news, which looks at open-source intelligence sources, claimed that the system was deployed “near Eilat in southern Israel amid threats of suicide drones and cruise missile attacks from Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.” The user gave the name of the system as PAC-2 GEM+ and said they had seen three launchers in the video. The IDF said, “we do not comment on reports regarding the deployment on aerial defense systems.”
The reports of the Patriot deployment were met with some skepticism by others who said the batteries have been there for months. Reports in January said that Israel had deployed Patriot batteries to the vicinity of Eilat. At the time there were reports of threats from Yemen.
Back in mid-April 2014, a Patriot missile battery was also deployed near Eilat. The report at the time from Ynet said it replaced a Hawk air defense platform that had been permanently stationed in the area. “The new Patriot battery includes an advanced radar system; it is expected to provide a strategic response to ballistic missiles, enemy warplanes, and attack UAVs. The battery’s interception program was upgraded in the last year-and-a-half to allow the Patriot to quickly intercept simultaneous targets. The new radar array deployed by the battery will provide enhanced identification capabilities for a wide-range of suspicious locations and targets in the Sinai peninsula, Jordan, and the Red Sea.” In 2018, a Patriot had been used against a drone that was flying from Syria toward Israel.
Israel has been upgrading the capabilities of its locally produced air defense systems: the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow. Last December, Israel conducted an unprecedented multi-layered integrated test with them, in which David’s Sling and Iron Dome interceptors were fired at the same threats. The David’s Sling interceptor – called Stunner – was designed by Israel to replace the MIM-23 Hawk and MIM-14 Patriot, or at least fill the same niche they do in terms of confronting medium-range threats. The US has supported all three systems and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which built the Iron Dome and David’s Sling, produces them in the US with Raytheon. Raytheon also makes the Patriot. According to the website Israel Defense, the interceptor of David’s Sling “suits not just the David’s Sling system by Rafael but also Raytheon’s Patriot system.” This allows for plug-and-play adaptability.
Israel announced new capabilities for the Iron Dome in February, and last week Israel’s Missile Defense Organization said that it had conducted a test in the last few months that “demonstrated outstanding capabilities against evolving threats, including successfully intercepting salvos of rockets and missiles as well as intercepting multiple UAVs simultaneously. The new configuration of the Iron Dome system will be delivered to the IAF and Navy for operational use, and will further strengthen the State of Israel’s multi-tier missile defense array.”
The Patriots have also been upgraded over the years. Back in 2012, their system received advanced cameras. However, the deployment of the Patriot batteries near Eilat to confront threats, such as from Yemen, illustrate a possible new front for Israeli defense. Speculation at Al-Monitor in January said that the Houthi threat is a “whole new ballgame” for Israel.
ON JANUARY 13, Newsweek said that Iran may have brought a new type of drone to Yemen with a range of some 2,000 km., potentially putting Israel within its reach. AP reported on March 14 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu avoided Saudi airspace on a planned trip to Abu Dhabi due to Houthi threats. In the end he didn’t need to avoid it because he didn’t go to the UAE. In October 2019, Netanyahu said that Iran was seeking to strike at Israel from Yemen.
Iran supplies the Houthis with long range ballistic missiles that have a range of some 800 km. and also provides them drone technology from their Qasef line of kamikaze drones. Those drones have recently wreaked havoc; allegedly flown from Yemen, they attacked Saudi Arabia’s Ras Tanura energy facility and on Friday the Houthis struck an oil refinery near Riyadh with six drones.
Iran also attacked Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia in September 2019. Iran has also sent drones to Shi’ite militias in Iraq to attack Saudi Arabia. In January, an attack on a royal palace allegedly came from Iraq. An attack in May 2019 also may have originated from Iraq.
According to the US Missile Defense Agency, the Patriot Pac-2 has a range of some 100 km. Ostensibly, putting several batteries in southern Israel would provide radar coverage and interceptors to stop a drone swarm and cruise missile attack of the kind Iran carried out on Abqaiq. Video of Patriot batteries near Eilat was also posted online in January. The IDF said, “we do not comment on reports regarding the deployment on aerial defense systems.”