JERUSALEM, Israel – The U.S. is providing Israel with high-powered X-band radar capable of detecting missile launches up to 1,500 miles away — and sensitive enough to detect small- and medium-range missiles being fired from Iran and Syria.
The radar will grant Israel about 60-70 seconds more warning time when missiles are launched. The system's massive range means targets as far away as southern Russia can be monitored.
Every second of warning counts, as Syrian missiles can hit Israel in just four minutes, and Iranian missiles can reach Israel's borders in just 11 minutes.
Israel will not have direct access to the intelligence the radar collects. American satellites will be used with the radar, and only Americans will have access to the technology and the information.
About 120 American technicians and security guards will be stationed in Israel's southern Negev Desert to oversee the operation, the first time in the country's 60-year history that they've allowed a foreign military presence to be based here.
In September the U.S. Senate passed an amendment allocating $89 million for activating and deploying the X-band radar. Iran was quick to attack the funding in an editorial in the Tehran Times.
"If it were proposed that this fraction of the tax revenues should be allocated to reduce the pains in the hearts of one thousand owners of foreclosed properties in the working class neighborhoods of Chicago ... no doubt the same senators who enthusiastically and unanimously voted for the bill would have rejected it outright with no hesitation or mercy," the paper wrote.
According to military experts, the radar was intended to send a message to Iran, and to Israel as well. It shows Iran the U.S. is beefing up its capabilities in the region, and it also is intended to calm Israel and prevent it from rushing into a military strike.
Israeli military analyst Alon Ben-David said this was Bush's last gift to Israel.
"Having a U.S. force deployed permanently in Israel is a gift, but it also binds Israel. Israel will have to take into account the presence of an American force before considering any military action that might generate a response from the other side," he told FOX News. "But on the other hand, this is a very clear signal of the U.S. commitment to the security of Israel."