Israel Said To Give China
Secret Data On US-Israeli Laser
From Global Briefings - Issue 38
A classified U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report states that Israel in late 1996 and early 1997 likely gave China information on the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) jointly being developed by Israel and the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (USASMDC) to demonstrate the utility of high energy lasers in tactical applications as an inexpensive counter to short-range missiles and air-based threats.
China is known by U.S. intelligence to be working on its own high energy laser weapons systems. Last May, however, nearly two years after Israel was suspected of transferring THEL technology to China, top U.S. officials involved in the program expressed that they were still concerned about Israel's access to certain classified portions of the program.
Speaking on background at the USASMDC headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama, the officials of the USASMDC and the Department of Defense's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) specifically expressed concern about Israel getting access to software code which would allow it to "re-program" the THEL to be used against airborne aircraft other than the 122mm Russian-made Katyusha rockets frequently launched by terrorists into northern Israel from southern Lebanon. The first operational unit is expected to be fielded this year in northern Israel.
According to the officials, the U.S., under its agreement with the Israeli government, is to control the software code used to target the laser at specific types of airborne craft. Under this July, 1996 agreement, the THEL being developed for deployment in Israel is supposed to be restricted to being used against Katyusha rockets only. Israel is only "to have access to executable code," U.S. officials at the USASMDC headquarters told SOURCES, explaining that anyone who had access to the source targeting code could re-program the laser to be fired at virtually any airborne aircraft, from missile to plane.
When questioned last week by The Washington Times about the secret DIA report that states Israel was trying to obtain the targeting computer code and other THEL technology, USASMDC officials had no immediate comment, although a USASMDC spokesperson was quoted as saying he was unaware of the Israeli efforts to obtain the code or any other unauthorized transfer of technology.
During the briefings, one top U.S. DoD official specifically referred to problems the U.S. had had with Israel trying to obtain the targeting code, but stressed that the code had not been compromised.
Israel, which is funding a third of the THEL program, was chosen as a partner for this U.S. Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program because of its need for an effective defense against the Katyusha rocket. An ACTD program is one which can lead to accelerated acquisition in order to rapidly field a vital new weapons system.
The DIA report, according to The Washington Times, discloses that Israeli government officials obtained some restricted technology from TRW Space and Electronics Group, the prime contractor for the program, in 1996 which it may have shared with China. Following the unauthorized technology transfer, TRW halted any further technology transfers to Israel.
TRW employees in Israel reportedly observed Chinese technicians working secretly at Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI), one of the Israeli companies involved in the THEL program. The company is working on the THEL's radar, fire control assemblies, and sensors for its pointer/tracker.
"IAI has transferred technology to China, possibly including U.S.-supplied technology," the DIA report states.
Steven Brian, a former undersecretary of defense for technology transfers, told SOURCES in February that based on his knowledge of Israeli and China's efforts to acquire advanced U.S. weapons technologies, it is highly likely that Israel provided China with significant data on the THEL, adding that if China were to acquire the THEL targeting code, coupled with whatever THEL technology it already has, it could have serious and far-reaching ramifications for the U.S. military.