Air Force holds missile defense drill over central Israel
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Air Force holds missile defense drill over central Israel

Military warns residents that explosions may be heard during routine exercise of aerial defense systems

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative. An Iron Dome missile defense battery fires an intercepting missile on July 13, 2014. (David Buimovitch/Flash90)
Illustrative. An Iron Dome missile defense battery fires an intercepting missile on July 13, 2014. (David Buimovitch/Flash90)

The Israeli Air Force conducted a test of its aerial defense systems on Tuesday evening, firing multiple interceptor missiles into the air over central Israel, the army said.

The military would not elaborate on the types of air defense systems being fired in the exercise, but warned residents there would be several launches and they could expect to hear explosions.

The army stressed that the exercise was not connected to any specific threats, but was instead planned in advance as part of the military’s yearly training calendar.

With hundreds of thousands of rockets and missiles pointed at Israel from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, Israel maintains one of the world’s most advanced multi-tiered air defense system, designed to intercept incoming short-, medium- and long-range missiles.

The lowest layer of Israel’s multi-tiered missile defense system is the Iron Dome, capable of shooting down short-range rockets, small unmanned aerial vehicles and some mortar shells like those that have been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip or from southern Lebanon.

The David's Sling missile defense-system seen at the Hatzor Air Base, Israel. Sunday, April 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
The David’s Sling missile defense-system seen at the Hatzor Air Base, Israel. Sunday, April 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

The middle tier is the David’s Sling, also known as the Magic Wand, which was declared operational in April. It is designed to shoot down incoming missiles with ranges of 40-300 kilometers (25-190 miles), meaning it could be used against Hamas’s longer-range rockets, but would more likely be deployed against missiles fired by Hezbollah or Syria, such as the Iranian Fateh 110 or its Syrian equivalent, the M600.

At the top are the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems, which are intended to engage long-range ballistic missiles. The Arrow was put in use for the first time on March 17, when it downed an incoming Syrian anti-aircraft missile.

Israel also operates the long-range Patriot missile system, with which the air force has shot down multiple unmanned aerial vehicles, most recently on April 27, as well as a Syrian Air Force Sukhoi Su-24 in 2014.

But even with the full complement of missile defense systems, defense officials warn that it is not a hermetic seal and some rockets will inevitably slip past the array.

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