A successful test flight of the Arrow 3 interceptor missile was conducted Friday in a joint operation by the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the US Missile Defense Agency.
According to a statement released by the Ministry of Defense, the missile was launched over the Mediterranean Sea, and flew in an exo-atmospheric trajectory, reaching space.
The successful test flight, the missile’s second, was said to be a major milestone in the joint American-Israeli development of the advanced weapon system.
The Arrow 3 is able to target incoming nuclear or conventional missiles at a higher altitude than its shorter-ranged predecessor, the Arrow 2, Col. Aviram Hasson told reporters several months ago.
“We’re thinking mostly about the nuclear threat,” he said. The Arrow 3′s high-altitude capability makes it an ideal counter to nuclear missiles, since the altitude minimizes the threat of fallout from the missile’s destruction.
Hasson described Israel’s four-layered missile defense strategy: Iron Dome, which protects against smaller, short-range threats up to 70 kilometers; David’s Sling, covering mid-range threats from 70-200 kilometers; Arrow 2, for long-range attacks; and Arrow 3, for incoming missiles from up to 2,500 kilometers away.
The shorter-range systems are mostly meant to counter attacks from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Syria.
In November 2013, Israel conducted its first successful interception of a target missile by the new David’s Sling missile defense system, which is expected to come online in 2014.
On the offensive end, Israel has reportedly also been testing the Jericho 3, an intercontinental ballistic missile said to have a range of over 10,000 kilometers.
In November 2011, the Defense Ministry test-fired a ballistic missile at the Palmachim air base, the site of Friday’s launch.
Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.