Arrow operators prepare for Iranian threat

Exclusive: IAF reservists being called for weekly exercises to hone their defense system skills.

Arrow 2 missile 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Arrow 2 missile 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Air Force reservists who operate the Arrow and Patriot missile defense systems have recently begun spending one day a week on duty to sharpen their skills, amid fears that in a conflict with Iran, dozens of long-range missiles would be fired at Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The decision to call up operators of the Arrow and Patriot systems was made last year by head of the IAF's Air Defense Division Brig.-Gen. Daniel Milo. Until then, only pilots were called up for one day of reserve duty a week following their discharge from mandatory service. "We are working hard to be ready for the Iranian threat," a top IAF officer said. "We are preparing for barrages, split warheads and other surprises and therefore we need to retain a high operational level by everyone, including reservists." Soldiers from the Air Defense Division who are on study leave are also spending one day a week at the unit. "They come once a week to simulate different scenarios," the officer explained. The scenarios that are drilled include the firing of large barrages at Israel from different countries at once, and the need for the operator to decide which missile to intercept first and at what stage of its flight. "There are difficult dilemmas that the operators face when it comes to missile defense," the officer said. Last month, the IAF held its 17th test of the Arrow 2 interceptor, shooting down a missile mimicking an Iranian Shihab ballistic missile. Later this year, the IAF will hold an unprecedented and massive exercise with the US military to jointly test three different ballistic missile defense systems, including the Israeli-made Arrow and the American THAAD and Aegis, which will be brought specially to Israel for the exercise. The high-powered American X-Band radar, deployed in the Negev Desert in late 2008 as a farewell gift from former President George W. Bush, participated in the recent Arrow test and tracked the incoming target. Military sources said that it was capable of providing "several minutes" of warning from when a missile is launched from Iran and until it is supposed to land in Israel. Meanwhile, L'Express reported Sunday that IAF fighter jets recently conducted a drill above the Strait of Gibraltar in preparation for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. According to the French newspaper, the exercise, held some 3,000 kilometers from Israel, included a mid-air refueling drill.