(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
For the second time in three months, Israel has failed in tests of the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system.
And for the second consecutive time, the Defense Ministry has published statements which did not tell the entire truth in order to conceal the embarrassing failure.
To put it mildly, the statement misled Israeli defense reporters and commentators and the public at large.
More blatantly, one can say that the ministry tried to lie and was caught red handed.
Representatives of the Israel Air Force, Israeli Aerospace Industries, the maker of the system, and the US Pentagon (a partner in the project) gathered at the seaside Palmahim Base, Israel’s missile site 15 km. south of Tel Aviv, to watch and evaluate the test.
It was aimed to comprehensively check all the components of the Arrow 3 system: the target missile, the intercepting missile, the radar, and the ground station.
As is customary in tests of this kind, an IAF fighter plane fired a target missile from over the Mediterranean hundreds of kilometers away to simulate an incoming Iranian Shihab-3 ground-to-ground missile. The radar and other systems identified the target and were supposed to lock onto it.
But the test managers realized at the last moment that the there was no lock-on.
They decided not to launch the intercepting Arrow 3 missile in order not to waste the expensive missile. The estimated price of an Arrow 3 test missile is between $3 million and $5m.
The test failed, but the Defense Ministry issued a statement a few hours after the test claiming the target missile had been successfully launched on its designated course. The statement said nothing about the canceled launching of the intercepting missile, which together with the interception itself are the most important phases of any test. The ministry thus created the impression that the entire test was successful.
Only after Reuters published a report describing the test as a failure did the ministry – after an hour-long silence – confirm the facts.
At a briefing with reporters, a senior Defense Ministry source tried his best to persuade journalists that the test did not fail, but rather the entire process should simply be described as “no test.”
“It’s not the first time that the required conditions for a test were not matched,” he said, but the journalists were not convinced and refused to buy his party line.
Similar behavior was displayed by the ministry three months ago, when a test of the less advanced Arrow-2 also failed after the target missile veered off its course and had to be destroyed in midair.
The Arrow-3 system is designed to provide Israel with a much better anti-missile system to defend against the Iranian Shihab-3 missile, which can travel the 2,000 km. distance between the two countries.■ Yossi Melman is an Israeli security commentator and co-author of ‘Spies Against Armageddon.’ He blogs at www.israelspy.com and tweets at yossi_melman. Ilan Evyatar is editor of The Jerusalem Report