'Arrow can fully protect against Iran'
Exclusive: Missile Defense Agency chief favors selling system to allies.
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Recent modifications made to the Arrow enable Israel's ballistic missile defense system to successfully intercept and destroy any ballistic missile in the Middle East, including nuclear-capable missiles under development by Iran, Arieh Herzog, the head of the Defense Ministry's Homa Missile Defense Agency, has told The Jerusalem Post.
In a rare interview that will appear in full in Monday's Post, Herzog provides an inside look at the decision-making process behind Israel's missile defense systems, led by the Israeli- and American-developed Arrow missile, one of the only operational ballistic missile defense systems in the world.
On Monday, the IAF successfully tested a newly modified Arrow interceptor.
Iran and Syria, Herzog said, were investing unprecedented amounts of money in long-range ballistic missile capabilities - with the help of North Korea - and had all but given up building modern air forces.
"The Iranians are continually increasing the range of their missiles," he said. "They are buying technology and in some cases even complete systems from North Korea and other countries."
Herzog also said that while there might be missile systems in Iranian hands that the Arrow could not intercept, all of the ballistic missiles "currently operational" in the Islamic Republic could be destroyed by the Israeli defense system.
"Our Arrow operational system can without a doubt deal with all of the operational threats in the Middle East, particularly in Iran and Syria," he declared.
A branch of the Defense Ministry's Research and Development Directorate, Homa - Hebrew for "Fortress Wall" - was established in 1991 and given a mandate to oversee the development, procurement and integration of missile defense systems, once needed against crude Iraqi Scud missiles and now to face advanced long-range Iranian Shihabs.
Herzog said he favored selling the Arrow to Israel's allies. Countries that have expressed interest include Turkey and South Korea. At the moment, however, the sale of the system is not on the table and this would only change following a joint decision by Israel and the US.
"If it would be possible to sell the system, I would be in favor," he said. "But this is a government decision that needs to be made by Israel together with the United States."
Discussing the Second Lebanon War, Herzog said a missile defense system that was effective against the short-range Katyusha - close to 4,000 struck northern Israel - could have changed the outcome in Israel's favor.
"Active protection can dramatically reduce the number of casualties," he said, adding that this would also provide the government with improved "diplomatic maneuverability."
Such a system also serves as a deterrent. "If someone thinks that a large percentage of his missiles will be intercepted, he will think twice before attacking," Herzog said.