Fearing an Iranian missile attack, the IDF has raised the level of vigilance of its Arrow 2 anti-ballistic missile defense system and has reinforced personnel at the command center in the Palmahim Air Force base north of Ashdod, The Jerusalem Post
Maj. Elyakim, commander of the Arrow missile battery at Palmahim, said the missile crews were always on high alert, but they were recently instructed to "raise their level of awareness" because of general developments on the Iranian front. The increased vigilance level, he said, was not due to specific intelligence but rather to the generally tense situation in the region.
The Arrow missile, he said, could intercept and destroy any Iranian missile fired at Israel, including ones carrying non-conventional warheads. Analysts believe that if Iran is attacked by Israel or the US, it would respond by firing long-range ballistic missiles at Israel.
"The [Arrow missile] unit works around the clock and is always on call," he told the Post
. "But in wake of recent events, we have raised our level of awareness... we have taken into consideration what is happening around us."
The Arrow missiles at Palmahim, Blaier said, were recently upgraded by the manufacturers. The missile system, he said, was regularly improved to meet the threats from enemy ballistic missiles.
"The missile undergoes frequent improvements to meet the developments our enemies make with their surface-to-surface missiles," he said. The improvements are sometimes based on general technological developments in the missile field and sometimes on intelligence on enemy missile advances.
The Arrow 2 was last tested in December and it succeeded in intercepting an incoming rocket simulating an Iranian Shihab 3 at an altitude higher than tested in the previous 13 exercises.
Military officials recently said Iran had cruise missiles - purchased from Ukraine in 2002 - that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads 3,000 kilometers.
While the Arrow is Israel's first line of defense against Iranian missiles, air force Patriot batteries - used during the first Gulf War - serve as the country's backup interception system against incoming missiles. Israel is known to have two operational Arrow batteries - one stationed at Palmahim to protect Tel Aviv and the center of the country and the other at Ein Shemer near Hadera.
The missile defense system, Blaier said, was capable of firing several missiles at once to intercept a number of incoming rockets. If a missile carrying a chemical or biological warhead was intercepted by the Arrow, the payload, Blaier said, would disperse at a high-enough altitude to prevent damage to population centers below.
Last month, a high-ranking IDF officer told the Post that Iranian nuclear missiles could be intercepted and destroyed by Israel's Arrow 2 missile system. Improvements, the officer said, had been recently made to the Arrow, which was now able to detect incoming missiles carrying multiple warheads and equipped with decoys meant to fool the anti-missile system.