Israel Tests Arrow 3, After Iranian Ballistic Missile Test

An "Arrow 3" ballistic missile interceptor is seen during its test launch near Ashdod December 10, 2015. Israel test-launched its "Arrow 3" ballistic missile interceptor on Thursday, the Defence Ministry said in a statement, adding that it would provide updates on the result of the live trial. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
An Arrow 3 ballistic missile interceptor is seen during its test launch near Ashdod, Thursday. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

The Ministry of Defense said Thursday morning that it had conducted a successful test of the Arrow 3 missile, the newest iteration of the country’s missile shield against long-range ballistic missiles. The test was conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), with which Israel has been working to develop the Arrow 3.

The test was conducted in an unspecified area, and data on how successful it was “will be released as available,” the Ministry said. Previous tests of the system have been successful as well.

The Arrow 3 is the “third pillar” of Israel’s missile defense system, together with the Iron Dome and David’s Sling, the former to deflect incoming short-range missiles like Kassam rockets, and the latter to shoot down medium-range missiles fired at central Israel from Lebanon and Gaza. Both systems were used extensively, and with great success, during the 2014 Operation Defensive Edge campaign.

Over the past two months, Iran has conducted two ballistic missile tests, the latest last weekend. Iran’s ballistic missiles have a range of 1,200 miles, putting all targets in Israel in range of the weapons. In previous Arrow missile tests, the Israeli system was able to knock incoming missiles out of the sky while they were still flying over 100 kilometers (62 miles) aboveground. U.S. officials said they will conduct a “serious review” of the Iranian test for violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions which ban Iran from such activity.

The success was a boost for the Arrow 3, which is among Israeli missile defense systems that receive extensive U.S. funding. Its first attempt at a full trial, held a year ago, was aborted due to what designers said was a faulty deployment of the target.

“The success of the Arrow 3 system today … is an important step towards one of the most important projects for Israel and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) becoming operational,” said Yosef Weiss, IAI’s chief executive officer, who is a shomer Shabbos Jew.

The United States has its own system for intercepting ballistic missiles in space, Aegis, but a senior Israeli official played down any comparison with the Arrow 3.

While it “might be true” that the allies were alone in having such proven capabilities, “Israel is not on the level of the U.S.,” Yair Ramati, head of anti-missile systems at the Defense Ministry, told reporters.

Israel’s strategic outlook has shifted in recent months, given the recent international deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program, the depletion of the Syrian army’s arsenal in the country’s civil war and Hizbullah’s reinforcement of Damascus against the rebels.

Nonetheless, a senior Israeli official said there was no sign of waning government support or weakening U.S. backing for the various missile defense programs.

“Everyone knows that you have to prepare with an eye well beyond the horizon, especially as the enemy’s capabilities improve all the time,” the senior official said.

In the coming months the Defense Ministry and Israeli military will discuss a possible schedule for deployment of the Arrow 3, Ramati said, adding that further tests of the system were expected.

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