Results of the Juniper Cobra missile defense exercise staged by Israeli and American forces, which will come to an end this week, will be used by the US Defense Department to help formulate a new NATO missile shield for Europe, senior defense officials said Saturday.
Some 2,000 US and Israeli military personnel will wrap up maneuvers this week during which they are testing five different missile defense systems that would protect Israel from a ballistic missile attack, and creating the infrastructure that would be necessary in the event that the Obama administration decides to deploy US systems here in the event of a conflict.
According to foreign news reports, the drill will culminate in the live-fire test of a Patriot missile at the end of the week. Israel last test-fired a Patriot missile some two years ago, an official said.
The current drill was relevant for a European missile shield, officials said, since it provided the Americans with experience in how to work together on missile defense issues with other western militaries.
This year's drill is the largest joint exercise ever held by the countries. During it they have jointly tested four ballistic missile defense systems, including the Israeli Arrow 2, the ship-based Aegis, the high-altitude THAAD and Patriot (PAC) 3 missile defense systems. This is the first time that all of these systems have been deployed in Israel.
The drill was also relevant for a potential European missile shield, since the Americans would need to test their systems in different weather conditions.
"Weather can affect the effectiveness of a missile defense system," one official explained.
US President Barack Obama announced last month that he was scrapping the previous American administration's plan to put missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic, a program opposed by Russia.
In its place, a new plan under consideration will include the deployment of US navy ships equipped with Aegis missile defense systems to form a front line in the Mediterranean Sea alongside a few land-based missile systems in Europe.
The Americans are currently considering which land-based system to use. NATO is pushing for the SM-3, the missile that is the backbone of the Aegis ship-based system, but the US military will likely review other systems as well, including Israel's Arrow and Arrow 3, development of which began recently and which is being funded by the administration.