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Israel successfully tests Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system

Defense Ministry says radar arrays detected incoming ‘target’ and two Arrow 3 interceptors were fired at it, destroying it; trial follows recent Iranian ballistic missile tests

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

An Arrow 3 interceptor is launched during a test of the missile defense system on January 18, 2022. (Defense Ministry)
An Arrow 3 interceptor is launched during a test of the missile defense system on January 18, 2022. (Defense Ministry)

Israel conducted a successful test of its Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system on Tuesday morning outside the Earth’s atmosphere, the Defense Ministry said.

The trial tested a number of “breakthrough” capabilities for the missile defense system, which can be used immediately by the Israeli Air Force, the Defense Ministry’s Missile Defense Organization head Moshe Patel told reporters on Tuesday.

“We have made a breakthrough in every part of the system, in the detection arrays, in the launches, even in the interceptors themselves, so that they match the threats that are expected in the region. There were highly, highly significant technological breakthroughs here that were assessed and can be used by the air force in its operational systems immediately,” Patel said.

Boaz Levy, the president and CEO of the Israel Aerospace Industries, which manufactures the Arrow 3, said the breakthroughs were principally in the area of “algorithms,” the ways in which the systems detect incoming threats and calculate launch trajectories for interceptors.

“I won’t elaborate, but it gives the system more capabilities in dealing with threats,” Levy told reporters.

The live-fire test was held over central Israel in the early hours of Tuesday morning, with two Arrow 3 interceptors being fired at the same target.

“The operational radar arrays of the Arrow system detected the target and sent the data to the fire management system, which analyzed the data and fully plotted the interception. Once the plans were completed, two Arrow 3 interceptors were fired at the target, and they completed their mission successfully,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Two Arrow 3 interceptors are launched during a test of the missile defense system on January 18, 2022. (Defense Ministry)

Levy said the launching of two interceptors was intentional and planned in advance, not the result of one failing to shoot down the incoming simulated target. He said the two interceptors had “two different missions” in the exercise, having been given two different flight paths to shoot down the same target. “They were carried out exactly as we planned them,” Levy added.

Patel added that this more closely matches what would happen in an actual barrage and is the first time that two interceptors were launched simultaneously. He refused to comment on the precise altitude at which the interceptors shot down the target, but said it was “deep in space.”

The Arrow 3 is currently Israel’s most advanced long-range missile defense system, meant to intercept ballistic missiles while they are still outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, taking out projectiles and their nuclear, biological, chemical or conventional warheads closer to their launch sites. It was developed in a joint project between the Defense Ministry’s Missile Defense Organization and the American Missile Defense Agency. Work is underway on the development of a yet more advanced system, the Arrow 4.

The head of the Defense Ministry’s Weapons Development and Technology Infrastructure Administration, Danny Gold, described the test as “a breakthrough that represents a technological leap forward in the capabilities of the defense establishment to renew and to match the emerging threats regionally and on the future battlefield.”

Tuesday’s test followed a number of recent ballistic missile tests by Iran in recent weeks.

In an apparent threat to Iran, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the Arrow test ensured Israel’s ability to take action freely.

“We are preserving Israel’s ability to defend itself against developing threats in the region and allowing Israel offensive freedom of operation against its enemies, from an understanding that the best defense allows for the most effective attack,” he said.

Tuesday’s test was apparently delayed multiple times, likely due to inclement weather, with the testing area off the coast of central Israel being closed to commercial flights twice over the past week. Patel refused to comment on the reason behind these postponements, saying only that certain safety criteria had not been met.

The Arrow 3 was first tested successfully in February 2018, after months of delays and technical problems. It is considered one of the most powerful weapons of its kind in the world and has been in development since 2008.

Complemented by a number of other missile defense systems designed to protect Israel from short-, medium- and long-range attacks, the Arrow 3 represents the highest level of Israel’s multi-tiered missile defense network.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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