The Defense Ministry said Tuesday that in recent weeks it had successfully carried out its first large-scale antimissile tests using exclusively seaborne launchers, assessing the short-range Iron Dome, mid-range David's Sling and long-rang Arrow systems.
According to the Defense Ministry, all the target missiles and drones fired in the tests were intercepted and destroyed.
The Israel Missile Defense Organization led the series, in partnership with other leading defense contractors including Rafael, the designer and manufacturer of the Iron Dome and David’s Sling systems.
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Israel Aerospace Industry’s Elta division, Elbit and American defense contractor Raytheon, which manufacturers 70 percent of the parts of the Iron Dome interceptor in the United States and was a partner in developing David’s Sling, participated in the experiment.
The operation was aimed at testing the interoperability of the two interceptor systems, allowing with the sensors of other Israeli missile defense systems including the high-altitude Arrow2 and Arrow3.
According to Moshe Patel, head of IMDO, in order to ensure that a large-scale tests could be carried out in complete safety – unlike previous tests where the interceptor missiles were launched from Palmachim Air Force base and other land test-sites – the Iron Dome missiles were fired from operational launchers on Israeli Navy Sa’ar 5 missile boats, and David’s Sling was fired from a launcher placed on a civilian ship.
The tests were conducted in a wide range of scenarios with targets including tactical ballistic missiles, which were simulated by Rafael’s Sparrow target missiles and cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles simulated by the Banshee target drone operated by a civilian British contractor.
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The United States Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency was also deeply involved in the tests, and MDA Director Vice Admiral Jon Hill watched some of the interceptions over satellite link.
A new version of Iron Dome with increased capabilities against cruise missiles was used. The U.S. Army is purchasing two batteries of Iron Dome to protect its forces around the world from cruise missiles and according to Brig. Gen. Pini Yungman, head of Rafael’s Air Defense systems division, the second battery is to be delivered in the next few weeks.
This complex and comprehensive series of tests will have been planned for months, long before the increased tensions with Iran. But it is still impossible to detach them, and the cooperation of the United States, from wider events in the region.
Israel and the United States have been working closely on missile defense since 1991, when they deployed Patriot batteries to Israel in an attempt to intercept the Iraqi Scud missiles that were bombarding Israeli cities.
The cooperation in both developing and operating missile defense systems continued both with U.S. participation, including funding, in Israel’s Arrow, Iron Dome and David's Sling systems and the biannual Juniper Cobra exercises, in which both nation’s militaries test the integration of their ground and naval-based missile defense capabilities.
The U.S. army maintains an X-band radar site, designed to detect and track ballistic missiles at ranges reported as high as 2,400 kilometers, in Israel's south.
Raytheon, the largest missile manufacturer in the United States, is now both a partner in the development of David's Sling and the main subcontractor manufacturing the Iron Dome’s Tamir interceptor missiles. This gives the United States near-full access to two of Israel’s main missile defense systems. It has also hosted most of the long-range tests of the Arrow 3, at the MDA’s range over the Pacific, in Alaska.
On an operational level, the Juniper Cobra exercises, as well as other deployments, have achieved a high level of interoperability of both militaries defense systems.
Israeli defense analysts have suggested in recent months that the new diplomatic agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Iran’s neighbor from across the Persian Gulf, a U.S.-Israeli missile-defense “umbrella” could be extended across the region.