Israeli Arrow Missile System Undergoing Upgrades in Wake of Failed Test

Team of defense ministry retirees solves months-old riddle of what caused interceptor to miss its target.

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An Arrow missile is launched during a test from an undisclosed location in Israel April 7, 2009.
An Arrow missile is launched during a test from an undisclosed location in Israel April 7, 2009.Credit: Reuters

In the wake of a failed test of the Arrow 2 missile system, the defense establishment is working on improvements to the anti-ballistic missile.

The Defense Ministry tested the Arrow 2 system in September, but the missile failed to intercept a simulated intercontinental ballistic missile. The Arrow’s firing and tracking systems worked as planned, sending it toward its target, yet it never intercepted the ICBM and was later found at sea. The test failed.

Examination of the evidence revealed that the missile completely missed its target, as there was no shrapnel. There was another hitch during a test in December involving the Arrow 3 model, so it was declared a “no test” and the target missile wasn’t even fired.

An analysis of the Arrow 2 test revealed that the interceptor passed “close alongside the target” but did not hit it. The engineering team could not figure out the reasons for the failure for months. In an attempt to solve the problem, a “red” team was formed, which also failed to clarify what caused the system to fail. Another team of retired defense establishment employees was brought in to examine the fault, and two months ago the reason for the system’s failure was finally figured out. As a result, defense officials decided to make certain improvements to the intercept missile, and plan also to make an improvement the Arrow system related to the problem, which officials did not specify.

According to a Defense Ministry spokesperson, the hitch revealed in the test "has no influence on the current range of threats and the Arrow 2 system's[currently in use by the Israel Air Force] operational capabilities, and has recently been repaired."

Meanwhile, defense officials collected data on the Iron Dome system used during Operation Protective Edge and found that the system intercepted 89.6% of its targets, performing slightly better than it did during Operation Pillar of Defense. Most of the rockets fired at Israel were homemade, mainly 107mm or 122mm, as well as mid-range rockets carrying 35-50 kilograms of explosives. In about 65 instances, operators decided to utilize the defense system contrary to Iron Dome launching policy. According to the officials in charge, about 70 percent of Israeli residents were protected by Iron Dome’s umbrella during the operation.

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