The Defense Ministry, together with the US Missile Defense Agency, held a second successful trial of the Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system on Friday morning.
During the test, an interceptor was fired from Palmahim air base south of Tel Aviv, entered space and carried out a range of maneuvers in response to a virtual incoming enemy missile.
For the first time, the system’s radar tracked a virtual target and sent commands to the interceptor, according to Yair Ramati, head of the HOMA program in the Defense Ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure. Elta Systems, an Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary, designed the radar.
Ramati said that the test involved the activation of two of the interceptor’s engines – the first bringing it into space, and the second allowing it to carry out complex maneuvers.
After breaking free of the Earth’s atmosphere by flying at twice the speed of a tank shell, the Arrow 3 interceptor turns into a space vehicle that carries out swift maneuvers as it locks on to its target.
It then lunges directly at the incoming projectile for a head-on collision.
The test also involved Arrow 3’s command and control system, built by Elisra, which is a part of Elta.
After ten minutes, the interceptor completed its mission and fell into the waters of the Mediterranean, Ramati added.
He said Israel needs the Arrow 3 as an additional layer of missile defense in a region where “all sides are improving. We need to be one step ahead.”
The Defense Ministry said the trial “constitutes a milestone in the state of Israel’s operational ability to defend itself against threats expected in the region. We stress that this is another trial in a development process that will occur over coming years.”
The chief contractor for the Arrow program is the IAI’s Malam factory, which is working together with Boeing on the project.
The first Arrow 3 trial was held in February 2013, testing the interceptor’s flight capabilities.
In that experiment, the interceptor reached an altitude of 100 kilometers and tracked objects such as stars.
Set to become operational in around 2016, the system is designed to seek and destroy Iranian Shihab 3 missiles, as well as other long-range ballistic threats.
Israel is working to create a multi-layered missile defense shield, consisting of the Arrow 3 at the outer perimeter, followed by Arrow 2, which stops ballistic missiles in the upper atmosphere. Lower down, the David’s Sling (also known as Magic Wand) system, still under development, is designed to stop intermediate rockets and missiles, and the Iron Dome is in place to intercept short-range and medium- range rockets.
Representatives of defense industries involved in development of the Arrow 3 attended the trial on Friday morning.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon congratulated those involved in the test, saying that systems like Arrow 3 would allow Israelis to maintain ordinary life in the face of threats against Israel, and would assist the IDF in achieving victory quickly if needed.