February 15, 2007
Israel's defense establishment conducted a successful test of the Arrow Block 3 missile defense system February 11 for the first time during the night. The test, the 15th for the interceptor, the 10th for the complete weapon system, is part of the Arrow System Improvement Program (ASIP), which is being carried out jointly by Israel and the United States.
The Arrow systems test was conducted for the first time at night and was held less than two weeks after Syria tested an advanced model of its Scud missile. Brig. Gen. Danny Milo, commander of the IDF/Air Force's Anti Aircraft Division, said that the successful test of the Arrow proved that the system was capable of countering all of the current threats Israel faced from Iran and Syria. "The Arrow answers all of the relevant threats to the State of Israel although it is important to stress that there is no such thing as hermetic defense," Milo said, adding that Sunday night's 9:17 p.m. test was the first time that an Arrow launch and interception was conducted completely by soldiers from the Anti Aircraft Division, according to The Jerusalem Post, February 11, 2007.
Coming in the wake of the Syrian missile test and of the July-August battles with Hezbollah when the terror organization launched thousands of short-range Katyusha-type artillery rockets into Northern Israel, the Arrow test served to boost Israeli home front morale. Never before had Israel's defense establishment made public so much information on an Arrow test.
"We can't ignore the environment we live in and what we hear about threats towards Israel. Civilians want to know how the [Arrow] performs. Today they can know that they can sleep at night and be sure the defense establishment can protect them," Yossi Weiss, manager of IAI's Space Division, explained to YNET News.com, Feb. 12.
According to Jerusalem Post defense reporter Yaakov Katz, the Black Sparrow target missile, produced by Rafael, was designed to simulate an incoming Iranian Shihab missile. A release put out by lead contractor Israel Aerospace Industry/MLM Division, however, took pains to note that the target missile "simulated a yet nonexistent ballistic missile operating under extreme conditions."
Weiss was not so coy. "The profile of the threats is known. Future experiments will address additional threats. The Arrow is the basic response, but there are additional threats to account, coming from [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, and we won't go into detail. The defense establishment and the defense industries are doing all they can to prepare for the various threats coming from our enemies," Weiss said, according to YNET News.com.
According to Israeli officials quoted by Defense News, Feb. 15, 2007, the Black Sparrow target missile was programmed to simulate the nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles that are expected to be deployed by Iran in coming years. The upgraded defensive system demonstrated its ability to intercept targets at higher altitudes and longer ranges, so that fallout from such mass destructive warheads would remain far away from Israeli territory. "We widened the defensive envelope," said Uri Sinai, manager of IAI's MLM Division, which designed and produces the Arrow interceptor. "What distinguished this test was the special target, which was simulated to represent the extreme, difficult conditions in which the Arrow Weapon System may have to operate in the future."
It was the first so-called distributed weapon system test conducted in Israel, which required two Arrow units deployed some 60 miles from one another to share data on incoming threats and coordinate launching assignments. It was also the first time the U.S. Link 16 data distribution system was used to connect two Arrow units, although the system had been used in previous tests to connect Arrow and Patriot batteries, sources in Israel told Defense News.
In related news, the Iranian government announced last week that it is producing ballistic missiles with 2,000-kilometer ranges (about 1,243 miles), and new warheads. The announced range places Israel within striking distance.
The test success paved the way for an announcment days later that the U.S. Department of Defense has agreed to a five-year extension of joint testing and upgrades of the U.S.-Israel Arrow system. Initial plans called for ASIP to conclude in 2008, but the growing threat posed by increasingly advanced ballistic missiles to both the U.S. and Israel warranted renewal of the program, U.S. and Israeli sources told Defense News. Program officials said the Pentagon's MDA not only agreed to extend ASIP through 2009, but allocated significant funding through 2013 for so-called post-ASIP endeavors.
According to MDA's five-year spending plan, Israel is budgeted to receive $68.3 million in 2008 and $83.5 million in 2009 for Arrow upgrades and interoperability testing. Additionally, MDA has allocated approximately $80 million each year from 2010 through 2013 for post-ASIP activities, details and schedules for which will be determined by the two countries in the coming year. "We've started discussions on the post-ASIP program, which will allow both countries to remain way ahead of the threats we're likely to face in the future," Israel Air Force Col. Moshe Patel, deputy director of the Arrow Weapon System program at Israel's Missile Defense Organization said.
Immediately after the target missile was launched from an IDF/Air Force fighter several hundred miles away over the Eastern Mediterranean, the Arrow Weapon System went into operation and followed the following sequence: The Fire Control Radar (FCR), built by Elta and referred to as 'Green Pine', acquired the target and sent its data to the Battle Management Command and Control (BMC), produced by Tadiran Systems and called 'Citron Tree'. A defense plan was issued and a mission command was sent to the launcher. The Arrow interceptor was launched and flew to the interception point where its fragmentation warhead destroyed the Black Sparrow.
According to an IAI video, the target missile, once detected, was tracked by fire control radars at the Palmahim launch site south of Ashdod, the other Arrow battery site at Ein Shemer in the north of Israel as well as a Patriot battery elsewhere in Israel. The target solution and command to fire was calculated at the Ein Shemer location near Hadera and then transmitted some 50 miles to the Palmahim battery from where the interceptor was launched. The IDF's MIM-104 Patriot low- to high-altitude air defense batteries, built by Raytheon, provide a lower layer of defense in the event Arrow interceptors fail to destroy incoming ballistic missiles.
An Israeli defense official told The Jerusalem Post that the Arrow system is now capable of intercepting all of Syria and Iran's ballistic missiles. In addition to the continued development of the Arrow, the MDA recently requested of the U.S. government information concerning American-made missile defense systems including the Theater High Altitude Air Defense system (THAAD) and the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. "If the need arises, we will need to be ready to receive additional U.S. systems in the region to beef up our defenses and we will need to know already now how all of the systems will work together," the official said.
The objectives of this latest Arrow system test, according to the IAI release, included evaluation of the widened interception envelope and testing of the system in an integrated operational configuration engaging two batteries located at a distance from each other. "The next test, which will be conducted in a few months, will be a significant step up in the Arrow system's performance," Weiss said.
The Feb. 11 interception was the first time that both Arrow batteries - in Palmahim and in Ein Shemer in the north of Israel - were jointly activated during a test. Officials from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and Boeing were on hand at Palmahim to view the test, according to The Jerusalem Post. "Beyond the fact that the test was carried out at night, we wanted the distant battery to be the one to spot the threat and work to destroy it, while the other battery receives data but remains passive to the interception," a source close to the project told YNET News.com.
The Arrow interceptor missile belonged to the first series of M-4 interceptors jointly produced by Boeing and IAI's MLM Division at Boeing Integrated Defense System's Huntsville, Alabama plant. Israel Military Industries (IMI) is responsible for the first stage engine and Rafael for the second stage engine.
The last Arrow test was conducted successfully in December 2005 and intercepted an incoming missile at the highest-ever altitude. That test followed two partially successful tests in the summer of 2004, when the Arrow was launched in California from the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center at Point Mugu near Los Angeles.
The next Arrow test is expected to be conducted by early April and will feature an entirely new Block-4 version of the Arrow Weapon System. Reportedly, the upcoming test will be limited to a flyout of a new, improved-acceleration Arrow missile interceptor, and will not involve destruction of a simulated target.
One test against a live Scud was intercepted and destroyed at an altitude of about 40 kilometers. A second test was aimed at examining the Arrow's ability to detect a splitting warhead. It detected the true target, but a technical malfunction reportedly prevented it from maneuvering to strike it.