Germany bolsters defenses amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

In its biggest defense deal, Israel gets US okay for $3.5b sale of Arrow 3 to Germany

Sale of anti-missile system will the largest in Israeli history, with Berlin expecting delivery of long-range interceptor in Q4 2025

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

An image of Israel and the US's test launch of the Arrow 3 missile defense system on July 28, 2019. (Defense Ministry)
An image of Israel and the US's test launch of the Arrow 3 missile defense system on July 28, 2019. (Defense Ministry)

The United States government on Thursday approved Israel’s request to export the co-developed Arrow 3 missile defense system to Germany, in what will be Israel’s largest-ever single defense deal.

In a statement, the Defense Ministry said the US Department of State notified Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and other senior ministry officials that the US government had approved the sale of the system, which had been developed jointly by the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the United States Missile Defense Agency, and manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries.

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, from a distance of up to 2,400 kilometers (1,490 miles). Work is underway on the development of a yet more advanced system, the Arrow 4.

The Defense Ministry said senior Israeli and German defense officials would sign a letter of commitment in the coming weeks, and Germany would transfer to Israel an initial payment of some $600 million to set up manufacturing and production before the full contract is signed.

The full contract of $3.5 billion (previously reported to be $4.3 billion), according to the ministry, would be signed by the end of 2023, once final approvals from both parliaments are obtained. Berlin expects the Arrow 3 system to be delivered in the final quarter of 2025.

Germany, seeking to bolster defenses amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has sought to purchase the Arrow 3 system from Israel for more than a year now. The deal also came up in a meeting in April between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The Arrow 3 missile defense system that was delivered to the Israeli Air Force on January 18, 2017. (Defense Ministry)

Netanyahu lauded the deal on Thursday evening, calling it a “historic turning point” between the two nations.

“Seventy-five years ago, the Jewish people were crushed to ashes in Nazi Germany,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “Seventy-five years later, the Jewish state gives Germany, another Germany, tools to defend itself… what Israeli pride. What a historic turning point.”

Earlier in the day, Gallant hailed the advancement of the sale of the system, saying the US approval was “an expression of confidence in the excellent capabilities of Israel’s defense industries.”

“This is a significant decision, which will contribute to Israel’s force buildup and economy. It is also particularly meaningful to every Jewish person that Germany is acquiring Israeli defense capabilities,” Gallant said in remarks published by his office. “Arrow 3 is a groundbreaking system, the most advanced of its kind in the world, as well as a force multiplier in Israel’s air defense, soon in Europe as well.”

“Our cooperation with the US government is essential to the system’s development process and to the achievement of this significant agreement. This reflects once again the powerful defense ties between the US and Israel,” he said, adding that US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin played a “central role in this process.”

The director general of the Defense Ministry, Brig. Gen. (res.) Eyal Zamir, said the “landmark deal, the largest defense export agreement in our country’s history, will propel Israeli defense exports to a new record, following last year’s remarkable achievement of $12.5 billion.”

The German government has led a push to bolster NATO’s air defenses in Europe after seeing Russia’s relentless missile strikes on Ukraine, urging allies to buy deterrence systems together. More than a dozen European countries have so far signed up to the so-called European Sky Shield initiative.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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