Israel tested the Arrow 3 missile for the first time according to an Israeli Defense Ministry statement released Monday. The test, said to be completely successful by one Israeli official, took place along with U.S. forces over the Mediterranean Sea. Arrow 3 is designed to detect and destroy long range missiles headed towards Israel from countries like Iran.
Arrow 3 is “the most sophisticated system of its kind,” according to Uzi Rubin, who oversaw development of the project. Unlike its predecessors, these new missiles can reach higher altitudes. The recent test flight was designed for the rocket to reach an exo-atmospheric trajectory, a path with the rocket leaving the atmosphere. The system can also target warheads carrying non-conventional, WMD payloads. The rocket is still in early stages of development with its propulsion and tracking systems also going through evaluations last month. Arrow 3 has not yet been tested against striking incoming projectiles but officials expect it to be deployed by 2016.
Screenshot of an IDF Youtube video showing Arrow 3 launching. (Photo: IDF)
U.S. funding has been critical for the project; in 2012, $211 million allocated to develop the system, with $269 million more expected to be transferred in 2013. Another $250 million was allocated for the first four batteries and four more are expected to cost $680 million.
Israel’s defense establishment created a multi-tiered defence shield, with Arrow 3 comprising the outer layer. Iron Dome, possibly the best known of the missile shield programs, protects Israel from short range threats from Gaza and Lebanon. Officials claimed Iron Dome intercepts up to 85% of short range missiles fired at populated areas from Gaza in November 2012. Arrow 2 and David’s Sling, currently in development, should protect Israel from medium to long range attacks coming from countries like Syria. Arrow 3 targets ballistic missiles, like the Iranian Shahab with a range of more than 1,000 miles.
With Tehran skirting international demands to stop developing their nuclear program and an active conflict near Israel’s northern border with Syria, a comprehensive missile defense will continue to play an important role in protecting Israeli and U.S. interests in the region.