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The Arrow II missile test

In a joint test conducted by Israel and the U.S. on July 29, the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system successfully intercepted a Scud missile over the Pacific Ocean. This was the twelfth test of an Arrow missile and the first conducted in a real life situation against a Scud missile. Israel Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz responded by saying: "We are in an age of uncertainty. Countries in the `third circle' [Iran] are continuing their efforts to acquire non-conventional capabilities along with long-range launch capabilities. The Arrow is the best missile system of its kind in the world, and represents a force multiplier for our future force".

The latest successful test of the Arrow missile system was the last step in a long and complicated development process conducted by the Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI). The story of the Arrow missile began in the late 1980's when Israel was invited to join Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense initiative (SDI), more commonly known as the "Star Wars Program". In the beginning of the 1990's the first generation of the Arrow missile carried out its first test flights with varying degrees of success. The Gulf War of 1991 emphasized the need for a missile defense system after 39 Iraqi Scud missiles fell inside Israel causing damage and disturbing normal life. During the war the U.S. sent Israel a number of Patriot missile batteries but apart from boosting morale the Patriot did very little to stop the incoming Scuds.

The Green Pine radar system recently acquired by India, capable of locating threats 500 km away.

In the mid 1990's the Arrow I demonstrator ended its part and was replaced by the more advanced Arrow II missile system which became operational on March 14, 2000. During this time the Arrow II conducted 2 successful test flights, proving its ability to engage high speed targets. Today two batteries of the Arrow II missiles are already deployed to defend Israel and a third one is due to be added soon. During the recent Iraq war the Arrow batteries were on full alert but did not see any action. Advanced Patriot Missile systems (Pac III) did engage Iraqi short range missiles over Kuwait with some success, although recent reports show that technical problems caused the Patriot to misrecognize British and American fighters which led to the downing of two planes during the war.

The Arrow II missile is uniquely suited to engage medium range ballistic missiles, also known as Theater Ballistic Missiles (TBMs). TBMs, like the Scud missile are descendants of the V-II missiles used by the Nazis in the Second World War. Relatively inexpensive, with a range of more than 300 km, a one-ton warhead and a top speed of 5 mach, the Russian Scud B was a success with many of the former Soviet Union allies. Countries like Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya and North Korea stockpiled hundreds of these missiles and carried out extensive modifications to extend their range, accuracy and ability to deliver unconventional warheads. The Arrow II missile was designed specifically to encounter the threat posed by the Scud B missiles but recent modifications also make it capable against more advanced versions like the Scud C and D and the longer range Iranian Shihab-3.

The unmatched ability of the Arrow II missile system to intercept Theater Ballistic Missiles also made it appealing to other countries. Apart from Israel no country has yet to purchase a full Arrow II missile system, but India had already acquired and deployed the "Green Pine" Arrow II radar system to supply early warning against Pakistani missile attacks. Turkey is also high on the list of interested countries, along with Japan who is constantly under threat from North Koreas long range ballistic missiles.

The development of the Arrow has cost more than two billion dollars which was invested by both the United Stated and Israel. The manufacturing of the Arrow II is currently being done in the U.S. by Boeing and other subcontractors while the assembly is being done at the IAI facilities in Israel. This partnership helps the IAI acquire new markets around the world, and only recently it announced a deal with the European company MBDA to advance the development of an anti-ballistic missile system for the European market.

Iddo Genuth

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