Israel, US Conduct Successful Arrow 3 Exercises
Tests included the interception of three missiles outside of Earth’s atmosphere
Israel and the United States have conducted a joint series of tests in Alaska on the new, mutually developed, long-range Arrow-3 anti-ballistic-missile defense system.
The tests, which included the “hit-to-kill” interception of three missiles outside of Earth’s atmosphere, took place over the course of 10 days at Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska and were the first-ever tests of the Arrow-3 outside Israel.
The move is being construed as a message to Iran, which last week tested a medium-range ballistic missile that Washington said violated United Nations Security Council resolutions. According to reports, an Iranian-made Shahab-3 missile with a range of approximately 700 miles was launched from the country’s South toward its North.
Uzi Rubin, founder and first director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization and instrumental in developing the Arrow program, explained to The Media Line that the latest evaluation was held in Alaska, with its vast open spaces, for safety reasons.
“You don’t want to hit your own or other populations,” he said. “This missile has such a long range that the Mediterranean is too small for it. You need to test it in the ocean. We do not have [them, but] the United States does.”
Rubin, considered the “father of Israeli missile defense,” is currently a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security. He emphasized that the tests meant the Arrow-3 system was now almost, if not fully, operational.
“It’s one of the pillars of [Israel’s] missile defenses,” he said, which also include the short-range Iron Dome system and David’s Sling, designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles.
Finally, Rubin confirmed that changes had been made to the Arrow-3 but stressed that he was not permitted to elaborate.
Rumors began circulating over the weekend when Israel’s Channel 13 television station reported that Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, had made a “mysterious” trip described as “dramatic” and “much more important” than his typical diplomatic responsibilities. In fact, the excursion was so secretive that Israel’s military censor banned any mention until Sunday, allowing the publication of only cursory information at best.
Once approved for dissemination, Moshe Patel, director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, said in a statement: “The fact that [this took] place in Alaska, [some 6,000 miles] from the State of Israel, shows the ability of the Arrow-3 system to withstand any threat.”
Adm. Jon Hill, head of the US Missile Defense Agency, said that his “team and industry partners are committed to helping the State of Israel upgrade its national missile defense capabilities in order to protect itself and the American forces deployed in the region from growing threats.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu affirmed that the tests had “succeeded beyond all imagination” at the beginning of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting – which was attended by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
“Today, Israel has the ability to act against ballistic missiles launched against us from Iran or anywhere else,” Netanyahu said. “This is a tremendous achievement for Israel’s security. Let our enemies know that both on defense and on offense, we can defeat them.”
Amos Gilead, a retired Israeli general who served as director of policy and political-military affairs at the country’s Defense Ministry, likewise hailed the accomplishment.
“It is one of our major systems that aim to protect and defend the nation from hostile attacks, like [from] Iran, for example,” he told The Media Line. “It is a measure [we have taken] so we are prepared for all scenarios.”
Regarding the Islamic Republic, an Iranian military official contended that its ballistic missile tests were purely for “defensive needs,” even though such arms are generally used for offensive purposes and, most notably, constitute a primary vehicle for the delivery of nuclear warheads.
A New York Times report suggested that Tehran’s latest move “appear[ed] to be a political statement by Iran, acting both as a carefully calibrated effort at escalation – and as a message to Europe.”
Indeed, representatives of the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – convened Sunday in Vienna in a last-ditch effort to salvage the accord after Tehran upped its uranium enrichment to levels exceeding stipulated limits.
At the time of the pact’s completion, the Security Council passed a resolution prohibiting Iran from testing missiles such as the Shahab-3, which some analysts argue could be outfitted with a nuclear warhead.
(Tara Kavaler contributed to this article)