Israel’s upgraded ballistic missile shield became operational on Wednesday, in an extension of its capabilities to outer space where incoming missiles can be safely destroyed.
The Defense Ministry said the U.S.-funded Arrow 3 system, jointly developed by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and U.S. firm Boeing Co., was handed over to the Israeli Air Force.
The Arrow 3, together with the Arrow 2, which has been operational since 2000, would “significantly reduce the possibilities of ballistic missiles” hitting Israel, the ministry said in a statement.
The Arrow 2 is designed to intercept projectiles high and low within the atmosphere. Arrow 3 missiles will fly into space, where their warheads detach to become “kamikaze” satellites that track and slam into their targets.
Such high-altitude shoot-downs are meant to safely destroy incoming nuclear, biological or chemical missiles. Israel has frequently voiced concern about a ballistic missile threat posed by its arch-foe, Iran.
The United States has its own system for intercepting ballistic missiles in space, called Aegis.
Arrow serves as the top tier of an integrated Israeli shield built up to withstand various potential missile or rocket salvoes. The bottom tier is the already-deployed short-range Iron Dome interceptor, which was used extensively with high success rates in a 2014 war against Hamas in Gaza.
Another Israeli system, called David’s Sling, is being developed to shoot down mid-range, lower-altitude missiles, such as those in the arsenal of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorists.