Israel successfully conducted a test of the "Arrow 3" ballistic missile interceptor on Thursday morning, said the Defense Ministry. The missile's white trail could be seen in the sky over the center of the country.
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The announcement appeared aimed at reassuring the public, which had been jarred by previous unannounced test-launches from an air base south of Tel Aviv, worrying Israelis about possible missile battles with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah's Lebanese guerrillas and Hamas in Gaza.
The test-launch of the anti-ballistic missile interceptor comes almost exactly a year after a previous test, which partially failed. In last December's test, a fault was found in the missile used as a target — and as a result, it was decided not to launch the "Arrow 3" at all. The trial was declared a "No Test."
The "Arrow 3" is designed to intercept ballistic missiles at long distances and outside the atmosphere. The U.S. Department of Defense's Missile Defense Agency and Boeing are partners in the project run by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries. Each "Arrow 3" missile is estimated to cost about $2.2 million.
The Defense Ministry said it will provide the results of the live trial soon after its engineers finish analyzing the data from the test.
The Arrow is the long-range segment in Israel's three-tier missile shield. This also includes the successfully deployed "Iron Dome", which targets short-range rockets and mortar bombs used by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, and the mid-range "David's Sling", which is still under development. They can be deployed alongside U.S. counterpart systems like the Aegis.
The United States and Israel have been jointly working on Arrow since 1988. Washington says helping Israel build up the capability to shoot down missiles staves off escalatory wars — or preemptive Israeli strikes — in the Middle East.
Israel also sees it as a means of weathering enemy missile salvoes while it brings its offensive capabilities to bear.
What's different this time
In order to avoid the problems that occurred last year, the ministry's Israel Missile Defense Organization decided that in this year's test an Air Force plane would fire the "Sparrow" target missile. When the missile's engine stopped burning, the stages of the target missile would separate and a target would be sent above the atmosphere. Shortly after that, the Sparrow missile would release another target. It was decided to add the second target this time in case something went wrong with the first one.
The Arrow interceptor would then have to identify the target and home in on it — and then destroy it.
Because of the failure last year and the urgency to test the "Arrow 3" and make it operational, it was decided to add a third possibility in the present trial in case there was a problem with both targets. In any case the "Arrow 3" would be launched and allowed to track and home in on the target missile — but in case of a problem with both targets it would be aimed to "explode" the dummy target a predetermined distance away from the original target missile.
The trial will be considered a success if the "Arrow 3" successfully hits the target, or in case of a problem with the target missile, if it succeeds in tracking the target and "striking" the predetermined distance from the missile.