Working in secret, Israel and Germany have jointly developed a nuclear missile detection system, according to the Defence News Web site.
Military planners work under the assumption that in a nuclear strike, decoy missiles could be launched along with those carrying nuclear warheads to confuse and overwhelm missile defence shields. According to the sources, Project Bluebird is designed to avert such a scenario.
Code-named Project Bluebird, the system is based on the prototype of an aerial infrared sensor designed to identify a nuclear-tipped missile speeding toward a target amid a cluster of decoy missiles, according to Defence News.
Defence News quoted a Pentagon official as saying that "the escalating Iranian nuclear threat and the possibility that Teheran will one day equip ballistic missiles with decoys and manoeuvring warheads" have pushed Jerusalem to seek American backing to deploy the sensor on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
"The Israelis want an additional sensor in the air, and since Bluebird is only a demonstrator, they want to replace it with an operational sensor on a UAV," said a Pentagon source cited by Defence News.
Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at Tel Aviv University's Institute of National Security Studies, said Project Bluebird should not be viewed as a sign that Israel had accepted the inevitability of a nuclear Iran.
"It's not surprising that Israel is working on this," Landau said, adding that the scenario of "multiple missiles fired at Israel and the issue of a decoy needs to be taken into account. "In terms of the political and strategic ramifications, one should not to jump to conclusions or connect the dots where they shouldn't be connected. There's no indication here of a level of faith in the international community's ability to stop Iran's nuclear program," she said.
" Israel's missile defence program is a very long-term program," Landau continued. "Generally speaking, Israel is heavily invested in a missile defence system and is planning for future scenarios. Israel is correctly planning for all options in the specific case of the Iranian nuclear threat, and this should not be seen as a message that Israel believes that diplomatic efforts, or a military strike, won't be able to stop the Iranian nuclear program.