Security sources said that the cooperation between the Israel Aircraft Industries and the US military establishment enables “fighting distant threats and varied targets.” Security cooperation between Israel and the United States reached a new plateau last week when their jointly developed Arrow-2 anti-ballistic missile system was successfully tested for the first time against an incoming Scud missile.
The test of the world’s only operational missile killer system took place at the Point Mugu Sea Range off the coast of California. The test was part of the ongoing Arrow System Improvement Program (ASIP), which is carried out by the two countries.
According to the Israeli Defense Ministry, this was the twelfth Arrow intercept test and the seventh test of the complete Arrow system against simulated Scud missiles, but the first time it had been tested against a live target that represents a threat to Israel.
The Arrow System was developed jointly by Israel and the United States and is managed by the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) in close cooperation with the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA). Israel Aircraft Industries/MLM Division is the prime contractor for the Arrow Anti-Ballistic Missile System. Developed jointly by Israel Aircraft Industries and Chicago-based Boeing Co. at a cost of more than $1 billion, the Arrow is one of the few systems capable of intercepting and destroying missiles at high altitudes.
The system consists of the “Green Pine” Fire control Radar (FCR), developed by ELTA systems, the “Citron Tree” Battle Management Center (BMC), developed by Tadiran Systems and the “Hazelnut Tree” Launch Control Center (LCC), operational launcher and interceptors developed by MLM. Other components made by IAI, IMI and Rafael participated in the test.
According to a ministry statement, the successful test highlights the co-operation between the U.S and Israeli governments in ballistic missile defense.
“It’s an important step in proving the system’s operational ability and its response to the existing and growing threat of ballistic missiles in our region,” the statement added.
“We were sure the system was operating very well, but many people wanted to have proof. Well, now we have proof,” said Arieh Herzog, director of Homa, the Israel Missile Defense Organization, which oversaw the Arrow project.
“I think all of Israel should be proud of this achievement. We here are and are celebrating with champagne,” Herzog said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post from California shortly after the successful intercept.
“Bull’s eye”, “Arrow strikes” boasted the headlines on Friday in the mass-circulation Israeli dailies Yediot Aharonot and Ma’ariv.
Earlier in the mission control room, about a hundred Israeli and American officials and air force officers were tense monitoring the incoming Scud rocket. The Scud was launched from a platform at sea at its maximum range, which defense officials refused to divulge.
Two minutes after its launch, the Green Pine radar picked it up and the Citron Tree battle management center relayed the information to the Arrow-2 battery. About three minutes later the Arrow interceptor was launched. It rose for 90 seconds to about 40 kilometers and detonated.
The group of US experts following the test heaped praise on the system’s functionality, Israel Radio reported. Security sources said that the cooperation between the Israel Aircraft Industries and the US military establishment enables “fighting distant threats and varied targets.”
According to Haa’retz military commentator Amir Oren, “The Americans brought to the test the target ballistic missile, the facilities for the launch and the interception, and of course the funding – about $10 million. The Israelis brought themselves, the Arrow missiles, the Green Pine radar, and lots of hope.”
The Arrow project began over a dozen years ago to address the threat posed by the relatively crude Scud missiles, like the ones Iraq fired into Israel during the 1991 Gulf War.
The US has paid for about 65 percent of the $1 billion spent so far on the project, and it is estimated that it will ultimately fund about half of the final $2b. cost. The Air Force now deploys two Arrow-2 batteries, one south of Tel Aviv and the other near Hadera. It may also field a third battery in the future.
The Israeli Air Force declared the Arrow-2 operational in the spring of 2000, and the intention to test the Arrow-2 against a real Scud has been in the works for over three years. Officials from the Israel Aircraft Industries, which was the prime contractor for the Arrow-2 system, said the test could not have been conducted in Israel for safety reasons.
It has involved visits to the US and its territories to look for a suitable test site. A joint committee from the Defense Ministry, IAF, and Israel Aircraft Industries has scouted out missile testing ranges for the test, including the White Sands base in New Mexico, Kwajalein in the Pacific Marshall Islands, and the Pacific missile testing range near Hawaii. The base along the Pacific coast in California was eventually chosen.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz lauded the success as “further proof of Israeli security industries’ technological superiority. We are in an age of uncertainty. Countries in the third sphere [around Israel] are continuing in their efforts to get non-conventional weapons and the capability to launch them from long ranges,” Mofaz said in a statement. “The arrow missile strengthens the deterrence of Israel.”
Economically, the test in the US is going to be important for the Arrow system. Boeing has already begun to manufacture Arrow missile systems in keeping with an agreement that was signed two years ago. These systems will be sent to Israel and will serve as two operational Arrow batteries. In tandem, efforts are underway to find foreign clients who might want to buy the Arrow system as well. Turkey and India have already expressed interest, but no real negotiations on the matter have begun yet. Israel needs the approval of the United States, which was partner to the project, before it can proceed to export the Arrow missile system.
According to Maj. Gen. (reserves) Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, the director of the Program for Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, up to now, tests were conducted against a missile target developed specifically to simulate the Scud. “The possibility of examining the capability of the Arrow against a real target is important. And the very essence of transferring the Arrow battery to the US can teach us something about the system’s operational ability, and about the confidence of the developers in its ability,” he said.
According to Ben Yisrael, the technological achievement of the Arrow is of huge dimensions. “This is the only operational system in the world which has proven capability to intercept long-range Scud ballistic missiles. This is an extraordinary achievement of the defense industries in Israel.”
The Arrow is also a particularly successful example of what can be achieved in cooperation between Israeli security establishment engineers and their American colleagues, he said.
When the Air Force deployed its first of two batteries in October 2000, Israel became the first – and so far only – country in the world with a working missile defense system. Still, until last week’s test against the Scud, it has all been virtual. Now it’s real.