Israel’s Arrow missile defense system could intercept barrages of Iranian long-range missiles, Arieh Herzog, who recently stepped down as head of the Defense Ministry’s Homa Missile Defense Agency, has told The Jerusalem Post.
He spoke as there is an increasing chance that Israel is planning to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
While there “is no such thing as 100 percent defense,” the Arrow was fully operational and capable of providing an adequate defense against Iran’s Shahab and Sajil ballistic missiles, Herzog said, in an interview marking his retirement several weeks ago after a 12- year term that will appear in full in Friday’s paper.
“The Iranians have the ability to launch barrages and that is an important part of their capabilities,” he said.
“But we are prepared and have the ability to intercept those barrages if they are launched.”
Israel has two operational Arrow missile batteries, one deployed in the North and one in the South, and is establishing a third battery that is expected to achieve initial operational capability in the coming months.
It is also developing the Arrow 3 that will serve as the upper layer of Israel’s missile defense but will only become operational in 2015. A first interception test of the Arrow 3 is expected later this year.
Early this month, the Defense Ministry held a test of the Arrow 2 missile defense system. It intends to begin supplying the Israel Air Force with an upgraded version of the software used in its operation.
The test did not include the interception of a target, but a missile impersonating an Iranian missile was launched to test the Arrow’s ability to detect and track it.
Tehran, Herzog said, has made great advancements in recent years in its development of ballistic missiles and today has missiles with ranges of more than 2,000 km.
In addition to the Shahab and the Sajil, the Islamic Republic is believed to be working on creating a domestic production line for the BM25 long-range missile it purchased from North Korea in 2005. The BM25 has a range of more than 3,500 km. Iran is also believed to be developing cruise missiles.
Tehran is also believed to have developed warheads that can split in flight as part of an effort to deceive the Arrow and lead it to miss the warhead. “This is a problem and we have invested a lot in being able to distinguish between the various parts in space,” Herzog said.
In the event that the IDF attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities, the assumption within the military is that Israel will come under missile fire from Iran, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. The Arrow will play a critical role in protecting Israel’s strategic assets and population centers from the long-range missiles. It is also suitable to defend against Syria’s arsenal of Scud C and D missiles.
While Iran is believed to have just several hundred operational missiles that can strike in Israel, it has even fewer launchers.
On the other hand, it has built underground silos that can protect the missiles from attack and be used to launch without detection. This has been made possible by Iran’s success in changing its propellant from liquid fuel to solid fuel, which extends the missile’s shelf life and allows for storage underground without needing to fuel it before launch.