When the Arrow missile system was delivered to the Israel Air Force in 2000, Israel became the first country in the world with the ability to protect itself against ballistic missile threats. It was nine years after the first Gulf War when 39 Scud missiles fired from Iraq had paralyzed Israel and the Jewish state now had a way to defend itself.
The Arrow was the first system of its kind – designed to intercept enemy ballistic missiles on their way to Israel outside the atmosphere and way before they even crossed into Israeli airspace. The concept was revolutionary – Israel is a small country without territory or strategic depth. There is no room for mistakes and missiles need to be intercepted as far way as possible.
If the reports are right from Friday morning’s predawn IAF raid in Syria, the Arrow missile has undergone another revolution – it can now be used to protect Israeli aircraft operating behind enemy lines from hostile surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).
That is the big news from the early morning strike against what is likely another weapons shipment or arms stockpile on its way from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. There have been reports of strikes before and this is also not the first time Syria fired SAMs at Israeli aircraft.
This time, though, the Arrow was used to protect the IAF jets. The Arrow – originally designed to intercept ballistic missiles – can apparently now be used against shorter-range SAMs. The world received a rare view of the way the IAF operates in complicated places like Syria where there are Syrian missiles as well as Russian missiles.