Predicting that Israel's future wars will be characterized by unprecedented missile barrages, the IDF has decided to modify its missile defense doctrine and has changed its deployment of the Arrow missile in northern Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The changes to the Air Defense Forces' doctrine have been made over recent months amid rising and falling concerns over war with Syria, and as a result of lessons learned from the Second Lebanon War, during which some 4,000 missiles and rockets pounded the North.
"Our assumption is that the next war will be characterized by missile onslaughts, and lots of them," a high-ranking officer told the Post. "We can tell from the way our 'neighbors' are training that this is what they are planning and that we can expect a repeat of what happened during the Second Lebanon War."
Until now, the Arrow has been deployed in the Palmahim Air Force Base, as well as at an undisclosed site in northern Israel. The "thin deployment," as it was called, was implemented when the Arrow became fully operational in 2000 and when the doctrine was still based on the threat of Saddam Hussein's Scud missiles from the first Gulf War.
Defense officials claim that the Arrow missile is capable of intercepting all of the operational ballistic missiles in Iran and Syria.
Following this past summer's war and the recognition that the next war will involve Syrian and Iranian missile barrages, the Air Defense Forces decided to adopt a "wide deployment" for its Arrow missile batteries.
Ahead of a possible conflict with Syria and Iran, the Air Defense Forces are also conducting an increased number of joint exercises with the United States Armed Forces, in an effort to increase coordination between the two countries and to prepare for the possibility that Washington will send US missile defense systems to Israel if and when they are needed.
The Defense Ministry recently submitted a request to the Pentagon to receive information on two American-made missile defense systems - the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) and the Aegis.
The idea, a top officer explained, was to prepare infrastructure for the possibility that the American systems would be purchased by Israel or be deployed here during the time of war. In March, US Army officers from the European Command (EUCOM) were in Israel for the Juniper Cobra exercise, held every two years, during which Israel and the US run missile defense simulations.
"Our objective is to create the infrastructure and ensure that the Arrow will be interoperable with other systems," the officer explained, adding that this objective took up a large portion of the Air Defense Forces' training time.
To better prepare troops for potential barrages of missiles in a future conflict, head of the Air Defense Forces Brig.-Gen. Daniel Milo has brought in former officers who served on Patriot batteries during the First Gulf War to address young troops, sharing their experiences of intercepting missiles.
"We need to prepare them mentally for the barrages," explained the officer. "We need to train with the systems to make sure that they are operational and to prepare the soldiers for the possibility that they will be facing dozens of missiles heading toward Israel."
A newer model of the Arrow missile - called the Arrow 3 - is currently under development, and when operational will serve as a higher altitude interception system than the Arrow missile currently in IAF service. In addition, the IAF plans to invest millions of dollars in upgrading its Patriot missile system to be able to accommodate the advanced PAC-3, which will serve as a third layer of defense at altitudes lower than those covered by the two Arrow systems.