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Israel and the United States have signed an agreement to make the Arrow III ballistic shield, capable of shooting down long-range missiles at a higher altitude, the Defense Ministry said Sunday.

The move came around the same time a former senior U.S official told CNN that military action against Iran had become much more likely.

The Arrow III will allow Israel to deal with the threat of long-range ballistic missiles and will give it "the ability to shoot down weapons of mass destruction outside the atmosphere," the ministry said in a statement.

Israel, which describes its Arrow system as a defense against the Iranian threat, says the upgraded version will cap off its multi-tiered air defense apparatus.

The Arrow is jointly produced by Israel Aerospace Industries and Boeing and has absorbed over $1 billion in direct U.S. funds since its 1988 inception.

The Israel Air Force said last year that the Arrow III would take more than four years to complete depending on what resources were made available for the project.

Also yesterday former CIA director Michael Hayden told CNN's "State of the Union" that military action against Iran now seems more likely because no matter what the U.S. does diplomatically, Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program.

Hayden, who served as CIA chief under former president George W. Bush, said that during his tenure a strike was way down the list of options. But he told CNN's Candy Crowley such action now seems inexorable.

He predicted Iran would build its program to the point where it's just below having an actual weapon. Hayden said that would be as destabilizing to the region as the real thing.

U.S. officials have said military action remains an option if sanctions fail to deter Iran from developing its nuclear program. Tehran says it is for peaceful purposes but the U.S. and Israel dispute that claim.

Israel, which reportedly has the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, has hinted it could resort to force to prevent Iran from attaining the nuclear means to threaten its existence.