Arrow missile defense system 390.
(photo credit: Israel Aerospace Industries/Reuters)
The state-of-the-art Arrow 3 ballistic missile interceptor passed its first
systems test last week with flying colors. This most-advanced missile defense
design in the world exceeded all expectations. Even the scientists who labored
long and hard to take the concept from the drawing board to a flying and
maneuverable exemplar were struck speechless by its sterling
The Arrow 3 test missile was launched into space from a
coastal military launch pad in Palmahim. It remained airborne for more than six
minutes, testing Arrow 3’s fly-out capabilities at altitudes that went beyond the
lower boundary of space. It performed each and every task it was programmed
Arrow 3 is an Israeli-American co-production designed to provide
crucial air defense and minimize the mounting menace of sophisticated long-range
rocketry such as the sort supplied by the rogue North Korea to regional regimes,
most notably to Iran but not to it alone.
Put plainly, the Arrow system
is envisioned as the highest-tier protection in Israel’s multi-layer defense
framework. It is geared to counter threats against this country from missiles
that are launched into space and reenter the earth’s atmosphere to deliver their
lethal warheads to a predetermined target.
Arrow 3 is expected to
intercept incoming ballistic missiles above the atmosphere, in space. The
interceptor will provide several opportunities to achieve this task the missiles
are still above enemy territory.
The earlier model Arrow 2 will be on the
lookout for incoming missiles at a slightly lower tier, just about where the
At the medium tier, Israel will be protected by the
Magic Wand complex (a.k.a. David’s Sling), while at the lower level the by-now
familiar Iron Dome enters the fray.
The good news is that Arrow 3 is more
agile, weighs roughly half what its predecessor Arrow 2 does and promises to be
20 percent cheaper (estimated at $2.2 million per interceptor). It is also
capable of intercepting longer-range ballistic missiles and of doing so at
considerably higher altitudes than Arrow 2, which has been operational for eight
years. The sobering news, though, is that Arrow 3 will not be operational until
But we must not lose our perspective. There are no instant
solutions. The nature of both attack weapons and the defensive antidotes
invented to counteract them is that they are steadily and inexorably evolving.
There can never be a single or finite response to all the multifaceted dangers
which engulf us. The latest test in itself is the culmination of a sustained
effort that had been in the works for years.
Like it or not, our
increasingly unstable and unpredictable region is in the grips of a maddening
arms race that we cannot halt on our own but to which we must respond. We need
to keep developing new responses to the mutating weaponry that our enemies
import and maintain. There can be no respite and attempts to thwart what the
enemy may be preparing must be constant.
This is foremost a contest of
imaginations with existential implications long into the future and with
far-reaching global ramifications.
The fact that we are concocting a new,
upgraded arrow to add to our collective quiver should enhance our confidence and
should signal to those who strive to annihilate the Jewish state that it is
hardly as vulnerable as they would like to believe.
success of the test, conducted calmly and without fanfare here several days ago,
is another in a long line of feathers in the caps of Israel’s innovative
scientists and defense industries. We have every reason to be
Arrow 3 underscores Israel’s ongoing technological superiority in
the region and it can buy us time. But it and accompanying lower-tier
interceptors unfortunately cannot hermetically seal our skies, nor can they
replace traditional offensive measures to destroy weapons of mass destruction
arsenals across the lines.
There are no neat, deluxe fixes, but Arrow 3
means better protection by far than that which is currently available, at higher
altitudes and at significantly greater distances from our narrow borders. For a
tiny, densely populated state such as Israel that is very reassuring news.