Defense officials: Arrow capable of intercepting Iranian missiles.
By YAAKOV KATZ
In the face of Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, the Israel Air Force successfully conducted its 15th test of the Arrow missile defense system Sunday night, which officials said was capable of intercepting an Iranian nuclear missile.
Defense officials explained that the test, which was conducted for the first time at night and was held less than two weeks after Syria tested an advanced model of its Scud missile, was unique since it was conducted under extreme circumstances and was meant to "meet future threats to the State of Israel."
Brig.-Gen. Danny Milo, commander of the IAF's Anti-Aircraft Division, told The Jerusalem Post that the successful test of the Arrow proved that the system was capable of countering all of the current threats Israel faced from Iran and Syria
"The Arrow answers all of the relevant threats to the State of Israel although it is important to stress that there is no such thing as her emetic defense," Milo said, adding that Sunday night's test was the first time that an Arrow launch and interception was conducted completely by soldiers from the Anti-Aircraft Division.
Milo said that the Arrow test took the anti-missile system "farther than ever before" and expanded its capabilities and "defensive envelope."
The test was overseen by the Defense Ministry's Homa Missile Defense Agency and was conducted at the IAF Palmahim Base south of Ashdod. It was the first time that the missile interceptor used was made up of parts which were also built by Boeing in the United States.
The last time the Arrow was tested was in December 2005 and defense officials said that Sunday night's test was not connected to the Iranian nuclear threat but was part of the periodic tests the missile defense system undergoes. The launcher used in the test was an upgraded version and was fitted with active protection that defends the system against enemy attacks.
"The Arrow has once again proven its ability to defend Israel against current and future threats," explained a senior defense official involved in the test.
According to the official, the Arrow underwent periodic upgrades and developments so it could successfully counter missiles under development in enemy countries.
According to the official, the Arrow can intercept all of Syria's and Iran's ballistic missiles. In addition to the continued development of the Arrow, the Homa Missile Defense Agency recently asked the Americans for information concerning US-made missile defense systems including the THAAD and the Aegis.
"If the need arises, we will need to be ready to receive additional US systems in the region to beef up our defenses and we will need to know already now how all of the systems will work together," the official said.
The test took place at 9:18 p.m. when the Arrow 2 interceptor took off towards a Black Sparrow test missile, fired by an F-15 fighter jet, and designed to simulate an incoming Iranian Shihab missile headed toward Israel.
The Green Pine Radar located and identified the incoming missile, and the Citron Tree battle management center related the information to the Arrow 2 battery.
Sunday night's interception was the first time that both Arrow batteries - in Palmahim and in Ein Shemer in the North - were jointly activated during a test. Officials from the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Boeing were on hand at Palmahim to view the test. The interceptor cost close to NIS 40 million to manufacture.
Under a $78 million contract Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Boeing signed in March 2004, Boeing supplies 35 percent of the Arrow's main components and subsystems, including the warhead's electrical system, the radar shell (radome), missile casing, and electronic subsystems at a company facility in Alabama.
The last Arrow test was conducted successfully in December 2005 and intercepted an incoming rocket at the highest-ever altitude. That test followed two partially successful tests in the summer of 2004, when the Arrow was launched in California from the US Naval Air Warfare Center at Point Magu near Los Angeles.
One test against a live Scud was intercepted and destroyed at an altitude of about 40 kilometers. A second test was aimed at examining the Arrow's ability to detect a splitting warhead. It detected the true target, but a technical malfunction prevented it from maneuvering to strike it.
The Arrow project began over a dozen years ago to address the threat posed by the relatively crude Scud missiles, like the ones Iraq fired into Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. But as the project developed, the defense establishment was determined to look ahead to future threats, including faster rockets launched from farther away, possibly with multiple warheads.
Israel needs the system to protect it against the Iranian Shihab-3 with a range of 1,200 kilometers. With possible chemical, and in the future, nuclear warheads, the idea is to bring it down further from the borders of the state which requires interception higher than the Arrow was originally designed.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that the test proved Israel's high level of preparedness for future threats.
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