Arrow 3 missile-defense program at risk of slowdown due to cuts

System is designed to intercept Iranian missiles in space.

Arrow 3 missile defense 370 (photo credit: Defense Ministry)
Arrow 3 missile defense 370
(photo credit: Defense Ministry)
The Defense Ministry could be forced to slow down the development of the Arrow 3 anti-ballistic-missile system, designed to intercept Iranian missiles in space, due to budget cuts.
The missile defense system, which sends interceptors out of the atmosphere to provide the air force with additional attempts to shoot down incoming projectiles, had been fast-tracked in recent months in response to Iran’s missile development program, but its development may now be spread out over a longer period of time if a funding solution is not found.
Officials from the Defense Ministry are holding talks with the Finance Ministry, through the mediation of the Prime Minister’s Office, to search for ways to leave the program untouched.
“As with all working plans that belong to the IDF and the Defense Ministry, this has not been finalized yet,” the Defense Ministry said on Monday.
“Talks are currently taking place with the Finance Ministry...[and] efforts are being made to make up for the missing funds that are needed for a variety of projects.”
The defense establishment is coping with funding slashes of NIS 4-4.5 billion in 2013 and 2014, and is not yet sure which projects will be affected next year.
If efforts to exclude Arrow 3 from the cuts are unsuccessful, its development would inevitably slow down, though defense officials remain hopeful that this can still be avoided.
For now, the Arrow 2 missile-defense system is to remain in place as the principal defense layer against ballistic missiles, bolstered by Patriot batteries.
Arrow 3 serves as an additional layer of interception in space, and is being developed by the ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, with US funding assistance.
In June, Israel announced that it is fast-tracking the production of the Arrow 3 system, in light of the developing Iranian missile threat.
Col. Aviram Hason, who heads the Defense Ministry’s upper-tier missile defense program, told a conference of the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies that efforts to speed up the project were being made in order to answer the Iranian threat on time.
Hason added that Arrow 3 could operate over “out ring” states that do not border Israel, such as Iran.
Prior to Hason’s comments, the expectation was that the first batch of four Arrow 3 batteries would come into service between 2014 and 2016. Four additional upgraded batteries, carrying more interceptors, could be built later. Now, it remains unclear when the batteries will become operational.
In February, an Arrow 3 missile was successfully test-launched in Israel.
Traveling at twice the speed of a tank shell, the interceptor turns into a space vehicle after leaving the atmosphere.
It carries out several swift maneuvers as it locks onto its target.
It then lunges directly at the incoming projectile for a head-on collision, relying on the kinetic impact alone to destroy its target.
Israel is developing four layers of missile defenses: the Iron Dome system for short and medium range rockets; David’s Sling (under development) for medium- and long-range rockets; the Arrow 2 anti-ballistic shield, which intercepts projectiles in the upper atmosphere; and the Arrow 3 system (under development).
In August, Israel reportedly offered to waive nearly $55 million in US aid for its missile defense programs, according to the Defense News website.
The offer came in light of the considerable cuts Washington has made to its own defense budget.