Netanyahu: Arrow will help us on peace, or defense

PM meets with Blair, says Israel's hand always outstretched in peace, but we are always preparing for other eventualities.

Quartet envoy Tony Blair and PM Netanyahu 311 (R) (photo credit: Pool / Reuters)
Quartet envoy Tony Blair and PM Netanyahu 311 (R)
(photo credit: Pool / Reuters)
The Defense Ministry successfully carried out its first test of the Arrow 3 missile defense interceptor on Monday, firing it into space from a coastal military launch pad in central Israel.
Set to become operational around 2016, the Arrow 3 operates in outer space, traveling at twice the speed of a tank shell to leave the atmosphere.
It is designed to seek out and destroy Iranian Shahab 3 missiles – including any carrying nuclear warheads, as well as other longrange projectiles.
A senior defense source said the interceptor took off around 8 a.m. over the Mediterranean Sea.
“It obtained hypersonic speed and reached an altitude of 100 kilometers, entering space. It followed various objects, such as stars, and gained further altitude. Its engine stopped after six minutes,” the source said.
The test was led by technicians from Israel Aerospace Industries together with a team from the US Department of Defense’s Missile Defense Agency.
The effort is being coordinated by the Defense Ministry’s Israel Missile Defense Organization.
“The Israeli and American teams congratulated one another warmly,” the source said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu heaped praise on the successful test.
“Israel’s hand is always outstretched in peace, but we are always preparing for the other possibilities,” he said after meeting with visiting Quartet envoy Tony Blair.
“In this context, I want to offer my congratulations on the successful test of the Arrow 3,” the prime minister continued.
Netanyahu said the system reflected Israel’s technological and security capabilities, the abilities of its military- industrial complex and its close cooperation with the US.
“This [the missile defense system] will enable us – in any scenario of peace or with regards to those who want to oppose peace – to contribute to the security of Israel’s citizens,” he said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak congratulated those involved in the test.
“This is an important milestone for the State of Israel’s multi-layered defense system, which includes Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3,” Barak said.
Once it breaks free of the atmosphere, the interceptor breaks off from its launch missile and turns into a space vehicle that carries out several swift maneuvers as it locks onto its target. It then lunges directly at the incoming projectile for a head-on collision.
Monday’s missile test was designed to examine Arrow 3’s fly-out capabilities.
It did not intercept a dummy missile.
Weighing less than half of the Arrow 2 missile, the Arrow 3 creates an additional missile defense layer in space. Together with the Arrow 2 system, which intercepts missiles in the upper atmosphere, Arrow 3 gives the military two to three opportunities to intercept incoming longrange missiles.
The Arrow 3 does not need to know the exact location of the enemy missile when it takes off to intercept it. Once in space, it rapidly locates the target.
US funding assistance is crucial to the development of the project.
The US has earmarked $250 million for four Arrow 3 batteries, and is set to examine a request for four more batteries at a cost of $680m.
Future batteries are expected to hold more interceptors, making them more expensive than the first batch.
The US gave Israel $211m. for development of the Arrow 3 system in 2012, and will transfer $269m. to this end in 2013.
“We are in the arms race. We hope to be one step ahead, technologically,” a defense source said.
Israel is working to create a multilayered missile defense shield, consisting of the Arrow 3 at the outer perimeter, followed by Arrow 2, which is already operational.
The David’s Sling (also known as Magic Wand) system, still under development, is designed to stop intermediate-range rockets and missiles, and the Iron Dome is in place to intercept short-range and medium-range rockets.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report. •