US and Britain reportedly snooped on Israeli anti-missile tests
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US and Britain reportedly snooped on Israeli anti-missile tests

Spy stations said to intercept and decode transmissions from Black Sparrow target rocket used for interceptor development

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A test of the David's Sling missile defense system (Defense Ministry)
A test of the David's Sling missile defense system (Defense Ministry)

The US and Britain reportedly monitored details of a rocket developed by Israel to test its anti-missile defense systems, as part of a massive eavesdropping program revealed last week.

The Americans and British gathered information about the Black Sparrow missile, which mimics the flight path of an incoming ballistic missile and has been used by Israel in tests of the Arrow and Magic Wand defense systems, the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported Sunday.

It was not clear from the report how the data was obtained or if it was taken directly from intercepted transmissions during flights of the Black Sparrow .

On April 1, 2015, a Black Sparrow was successfully intercepted during a test of the Magic Wand anti-missile system, also known as David’s Sling, the report said.

The Arrow system, already operational, is intended to shoot down long-range ballistic missiles. Magic Wand is still under development and is planned to intercept medium- to long-range missiles.

Made by Israeli defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and manufactured under license by the US-based Raythorn company, the Black Sparrow missile is air-launched from a plane, usually an F-15 fighter jet. It then accelerates away to become a target for anti-missile systems to track and intercept.

Israel was disappointed, but claimed not to be surprised, by the revelation Friday that US and British intelligence services have spied on its air force operations for at least 18 years. The intel breach was described by one Israeli security source Friday as “an earthquake… the worst leak in the history of Israeli intelligence.”

The US and UK cracked the IDF’s special encryption system for communication between fighter jets, drones and army bases, Israel’s military censor approved for publication Friday, after the long-term spying operation was reported in two overseas publications. The two countries have reportedly used this access to monitor IDF operations in Gaza, watch for a potential Israeli strike on Iran, and keep tabs on the drone technology that Israel exports.

The tracking has been done from a Royal Air Force installation in the Troodos Mountains, near Mount Olympus, the highest point on the island of Cyprus, according to The Intercept, which, along with German newspaper Der Spiegel, first published the documents.

The IDF encryption code was cracked as part of a major intelligence operation that has been conducted by the US’s National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart, the GCHQ, since 1998. Throughout the operation, many ciphers for advanced weapons systems used by Hezbollah, Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Syria were broken.

However, much of the focus of the operation, code-named Anarchist, was Israel. Within Anarchist, the focus on the Black Sparrow project was called Runway, Yedioth said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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