The Ministry of Defense reported Thursday morning that its first interception trial for its new missile was completed successfully in a major breakthrough for Israel's missile defense systems. The trial was conducted shortly after 8 am local time when an Israeli Air Force jet flew west into the sea, from where it launched targets designed to simulate enemy missiles flying towards Israel.
The Arrow 3 system identified the targets while they were still in space by using its array of sensors including the Super Green Pine radar, built by Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) subsidiary Elta Industries. The interceptor missile also built by IAI was launched at 8:12 from the Palmachim Air Force Base.
“The interception was accurate, unequivocally,” said Yair Ramati, director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization at the ministry. “The systems worked as expected and the interceptor hit the target dead center.”
Thursday morning’s trial was planned long ago, after a similar trial failed last year. In that attempt, the interceptor was never launched because of problems with the dummy vehicle. The lesson was learned the trial this morning included two targets, one to serve as backup if the first failed.
As part of the successful test, the kill vehicle intercepted its target outside the atmosphere.
“This was the first time Israel successfully hit a target at such elevations essentially in space,” said Ramati. “The missile correctly identified its target from a great distance and showed off its exceptional capability.”
“This is an incredible achievement, well beyond our expectations. There was a wonderful hit on the target,” said Yoav Turgeman, the general manager of IAI’s MLM Division.
IAI CEO Joseph Weiss said: “The success of the Arrow 3 system today is an important step towards one of the most important projects for Israel and IAI becoming operational.”
The other leading Israeli defense manufacturers, Elbit and Israel Military Inustries also took pride in the successful test: the former developed the Arrow 3’s Golden Citron command and control center while the latter developed the engine for the missile. The target missile, the Sparrow, was manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd..
The Arrow 3 missiles were designed to enable interception of ballstic missiles beyond the earth’s atmosphere, both to provide a solution to blocking missiles carrying nuclear warheads far from Israel and to increase the odds of intercepting enemy missiles. If the Arrow 3 kill vehicle was to miss in a real-life event, the IAF’s missile defense shield will have a second shot at interception with the Arrow 2 missile.
The Arrow 2 interceptors have been fully deployed; over the years they have received software updates to enable the interception of a variety of missiles threatening the State of Israel.
The goal designated for the kill vehicle in Thursday’s trial was to reduce shrapnel below the interception site. Previously, experts believed the Arrow 3 system would be delivered to the IDF in 2016 before becoming operational.
Defense sources said the failed trial last year delayed that timetable, though the successful test made up significant ground and might even have returned the system’s launch to its original course. However, defense officials have refused to comment on the timetable until an initial operational deployment is complete. They said additional interception trials will be conducted in the future and emphasized, “Even after a perfect, successful test you can need to learn some lessons. Engineers analyze the trial, stage by stage, and then make notes ahead of future trials.”
When its development is completed, the Arrow 3 will serve as the top tier of the multilayered missile defense shield. At its base level, the shield consists of the short-range Iron Dome, which has significantly improved its performance since becoming operational in 2011. The next layer of protection is provided by David’s Sling, developed by Rafael and American contractor Raytheon, which will protect Israel from mid-range rockets and missiles as well as UAVs and eventually cruise missiles.
The threat of long-range ballistic missiles is already handled by the Arrow 2 system for most of their trajectory and by the Arrow 3 at the highest altitudes.
$2 billion from the US
American officials from Boeing participated in the trial this morning; Boeing is an outside contractor for IAI in the Arrow 3’s development. Officials from the US Missile Defense Agency, which is involved in the new missile’s development, were at the test site as well.
The Americans, who are also partners in the development of David’s Sling, have invested at least $2 billion into the Israeli defense shield program in recent years. That figure includes injections of millions of dollars for the IAF to add Iron Dome batteries and their interceptor missiles.
As part of the agreement between Israel and the US over the cash flow for these initiatives, most of the manufacturing lines for Iron Dome components will be transferred to the US over the next year and a half.
Defense sources believe some 55% of the components will be produced in the US, by Raytheon and other American defense contractors.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 11, 2015
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