Several weeks after Germany procured Israel's Arrow missile system for NIS 14 billion, it was operated for the first time to intercept a ballistic missile fired at Israel by the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Earlier this week the Arrow was used again to successfully shoot down another Houthi missile over the Red Sea before it had reached Israel.
IAI engineer in the Arrow program Orian tells "Globes," about the successful interception outside of the earth's atmosphere and explains that the Arrow system combines with a multi-layer comprehensive defense envelope and says that the deal with Germany has been a source of "unique pride."
On what basis do you build a defense system - scenarios or the weapons that you know the enemy possesses?
"This changes according to the type of project and target," Orian explains, and adds that it can start from IAI's R&D department or even the idea of an individual employee. "If it is an idea that works then we can think about it and we go with it. Alongside this there is identifying the need. Operational demands for which we respond to the challenge."
The Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 represent the long-range layer of Israel's aerial missile defense system, beyond Iron Dome (a range of up to 40 kilometers), David's Sling (range of up to 300 kilometers). The Arrow systems cover range of up to 2,000 kilometers and even further.
The Houthis possess the Toufan missile, which is the latest version of the Iranian Shahab missile. The Toufan can carry a payload of up to one ton of explosives but in order to reach Israel the Houthis were required to significantly reduce the weight of explosives.
Negligible cost compared with the potential damage
What is the difference between the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3?
"The Arrow 2 intercepts inside the atmosphere and the Arrow 3 outside of the atmosphere," explains Orian. "Both are designed for ballistic missiles, for distant threats with the difference being the height above ground. The aim is to intercept the missiles as far away as possible from Israel. Interception outside of the atmosphere distances the threat further from Israel."
The Arrow 2 entered service in 2000 and the Arrow 3 in 2017. The Arrow 2 system warhead carries an activation mechanism with a terminally-guided explosive, and its purpose is to destroy the target missile using the same charge. In the Arrow 3 however, the kinetic energy alone is large enough to destroy the target. The interceptor itself has a very high ability to maneuver and change direction, and it has advanced electro-optical sensors.
One of the issues in air defense, especially in the situation in which Israel faces threats from several fronts, is the cost of the systems. An Iron Dome interception costs about $30,000 dollars and a David's Sling interception costs about $700,000. Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 interception missiles cost about $1.5 million and $2 million respectively.
Despite the enormous expense, IAI engineer Orian says that an interception is much less costly than a missile hitting Israel. "What is of interest is that it saves the threat of a missile that is not intercepted hitting a hotel in Eilat. So it is not only the expense of how much it would cost buy the financial and emotional damage and the damage to morale and how many people would be hurt physically and emotionally."
"The defense envelope is not limited to the missile"
IAI and Israel's defense companies are continually dealing with improvements. The Arrow 2 and the Arrow 3 are due to be replaced in the future by the Arrow 4 and the Arrow 5, respectively.
Arrow 4 development began about two and a half years ago and is being carried out, as happened with all Arrow systems, in collaboration with the US. Arrow 4 will be an interceptor missile with upgraded capabilities and designed to respond to a variety of future threats. Arrow 5 is being developed from IAI development budgets, and no final decisions on funding have yet been made by Israel's Ministry of Defense and the US.
Orian says, "A defense envelope is not based only on a missile, but there are also all around, radars that we also manufacture, there is a command and control center, there is the interceptor itself and a launcher."
What are arrows 4 and 5?
She adds, "We are constantly upgrading our systems for new threats in the arena, and this is a type of upgrade. Everything is in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense, the HOMA Directorate, the US Missile Defense Agency and the Israel Missile Defense Organization."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 15, 2023.
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