Letter to Wall Street Journal's Norman Pearlstine  Nov 23/84
The original letter to Norman Pearlstine of course did not have segments of the text transformed into clickable web links (as indicated by being printed in blue and underlined).  When the reader of the letter below wishes, he is able to click on a link to examine the item being cited (which when in the midst of a larger document will appear as the uppermost item on the screen), and is able to then return to the present letter by clicking the BACK button on his browser.

One of the unfortunate things about differences between NetScape and Internet Explorer is that they do not respond the same way to the same HTML instructions, and that as the text below is optimized for NetScape, the Internet Explorer user will not get the same performance.  Specifically, when the NetScape user clicks any of the links below, he will sometimes be taken to the very location within the linked document that is most relevant to what he was reading.  The Internet Explorer user, however, will not enjoy the same advantage, instead always being taken only to the very top of the document linked to, which will thus sometimes leave him unsure as to what it is in the linked document that is particularly being brought to his attention.

November 23, 1984

Norman Pearlstine
Managing Editor
The Wall Street Journal
22 Cortlandt Street
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mr. Pearlstine:

    Maybe I have a story for you:

Canadian Psychology Professor
Tips Balance of Power in the Middle East
* * *
Were Weapons Developers Overlooking the Simple?

Either that, or we are left with some curious coincidences to account for.  Consider the following.

In the October War of 1973, Israel suffered heavy losses of aircraft to Soviet SAMs.  For six months after the armistice, despite continuing ground clashes with Arab forces, Israel refrained from exposing its newly-vulnerable air power.  April 2, 1974 marked the 22nd consecutive day of tank and artillery duels with Syrian forces on the Golan Heights, but still with no participation by Israeli war planes.  The Syrians, emboldened by Israeli losses during the war, and perhaps by Israel's unprecedented absence from the skies, were increasingly menacing, and the Israelis increasingly concerned:

Responding to reports of substantial Syrian reinforcement of their frontline units, the Cabinet convened an extraordinary Sabbath-eve session to hear reports on the situation from Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and the top army command.  Military sources said that Israel's forces would remain on full alert over the weekend.

The atmosphere was reminiscent in many ways of the Yok Kippur weekend Oct. 5, when the armies of Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack.  (New York Times, April 6, 1974, p. 5).

But what Syria had not anticipated, and what may have ultimately defused the confrontation, is that during its quiescence, the Israeli air force had undergone a transformation.  When it emerged from the phone booth, so to speak first in overflights on April 3, 1974 and then in bombings on April 6 it had cast off its vulnerability, and has not resumed it since.  The contemporary situation is typified by the summary in the New York Times, "Since the Israeli invasion began on June 6, 1982, the Israelis have flown hundreds of sorties over Syrian and Palestinian positions in Lebanon and lost only three aircraft" (December 5, 1983, p. 8).  Quite a contrast from the October war, as described by Syria's minister of economics: "It was wonderful to see all those Israeli planes shot down by our missiles their air force was supposed to be even better than the Americans'.  I was really proud" (Wall Street Journal, April 11, 1974, p. 1).  So what happened?

The answer may be heat balloons, first reported, as far as I know, in the Globe and Mail, as well as the Toronto Star, both of April 20, 1974, photocopies of which are included in the enclosed materials.  I let these materials speak for themselves.  Perhaps you could turn to them now.  What follows below is a series of miscellaneous thoughts on the subject.

1)  I have not researched the topic, but have clipped articles that happened to come to my attention.  From these it would appear that heat balloons have become an integral part of Israeli defenses:

New York Times, November 5, 1983, p. 6.
New York Times, November 17, 1983, p. 1.
New York Times, January 5, 1984, p. 4.

2)  The first Israeli warplane to be lost after the October war was a Phantom that went down in Southern Lebanon on April 8, 1974 (New York Times, April 9, 1974, p. 3).  Syria claimed to have shot it down with a missile.  Israel, however, claimed that it had caught fire because of a "technical fault."  Could this  technical fault have originated in the as-yet-unperfected heat-balloon system?

3)  Reference to American war planes "spewing heat balloons in their wake" (New York Times, December 5, 1983) indicates not only that the idea has been adopted by other Western forces but suggests also that the balloons are ejected at a rapid rate, either because the airplane is aware that a missile is on its way, or to provide a screen for later airplanes, all three of which ideas were touched upon in my letter of October 26, 1973.

4)  So effective do the balloons seem to be against missiles that the greatest threat to low-flying aircraft may have reverted to older weapons: "It seems likely that the two downed planes and a third that escaped with minor damage were hit with concentrated bursts of conventional antiaircraft or machine-gun fire, rather than by Soviet-made SA-7 or SA-9 heat-seeking missiles, which can easily be deflected by dropping heat balloons"  (Time, December 19, 1983, p. 17).

5)  Alternatives to heat balloons, of the sort suggested in my "foam" letter of July 10, 1974, may also have been developed: "The planes, two at a time, appeared suddenly in a cloudless sky.  Brilliant flashes of light followed them; it was unclear whether they were caused by Palestinian missiles or were emitted from the planes themselves to attract and deflect missiles"  (Time, June 8, 1981, p. 28).

6)  Perhaps I am getting carried away, but I even notice a parallel between the infrared grenade described below and a synthesis of the suggestion in the last paragraph of my letter of October 26, 1973 with the ideas in my foam letter of July 10, 1974:

Grenades containing infrared- and visual-screening smoke that protects armored vehicles from being targeted by thermal-imaging devices and heat-seeking missiles, have been demonstrated by Pains-Wessex Ltd. of Britain.  The Schermuly multiband screening system, which has been developed by the company over the past two years, is based on 66-millimetre grenades that can produce a large cloud of infrared radiating material within three seconds.  The system is based on a new substance that is not as susceptible to wind drift as conventional smoke and allows for larger particles to be suspended in the air.  (Globe and Mail, May 4, 1984, p. B17)

When I first sent off my letter of October 26, 1973, I expected that if my idea was bad, then I would be told that it was bad, and that if it was good, I would be told it was bad as well this simply because Israel would not want anyone to think that it was working on it, and because a negative evaluation would discourage me from talking about it.  The response I did get was more positive than I expected and encouraged me to suppose that I had been of some assistance, but I continued to recognize that disclosing the matter prematurely would be detrimental to Israeli interests.  Now that the balloons have been in open use for over a decade, however, and their development has undoubtedly proceeded far beyond my initial suggestions, I can't see any harm in disclosing the matter and I am brimming with curiousity as to whether my own role in events has been anything like that suggested by my headlines at the beginning of this letter.

Yours truly,

Lubomir S. Prytulak

John W. R. Taylor
Jane's Publishing Company, Limited
238 City Road
London EClV 2PU