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Israel Gets An Unwanted Gift From America
by James Dunnigan
June 17, 2013

Recently the United States agreed to build a base for the new Israeli Arrow 3 anti-missile missile. This has caused a major security problem for Israel. That’s because the United States publishes, for all to see, precise specifications of military construction programs that are not classified, so that contractors can come up with realistic and accurate bids for the job. In the United States something like the Arrow 3 base would not be classified. But in Israel details of military bases are very much secrets. So there was consternation in Israel when they saw all the details of their new Arrow 3 base (including specs on the six missile silos and support facilities) on the Internet, where the U.S. Department of Defense publicizes jobs to be bid on. After all the yelling and recriminations were over, it was agreed that there was a failure to communicate on both sides.

The basic problem was that for over 14 years the U.S. has been giving Israel money, technology, and other aid for their work on the Arrow system. In return, Israel shares whatever technology it develops. Until the recent incident, Israel handled all the construction projects, using its own rules, and apparently no one on the Israeli side of Arrow development was aware of the differences in how the two countries handled obtaining bids on military construction projects. Now everyone knows, because this misunderstanding was front page news in Israel.

On the positive side, Israeli recently conducted the first test firing of the new Arrow 3. The February test was a success and Arrow 3 is expected to enter service in the next year or so. A year ago testing of the new Block 4 version of its Arrow 2 anti-missile missile was completed and version 4.1 is now in service. Those tests confirmed the effectiveness of new detection capabilities of the Green Pine radar. The improved Green Pine radar entered service last year. Block 4 provides greater accuracy and the ability to intercept missiles farther away. Block 4 was in development for over four years.

The Arrow system has been in service for 13 years and has racked up an impressive string of successes in test launches. Designed to deal with short and medium range ballistic missiles, it was built to protect Israel from Syrian and Iranian attack. Israel now has three Arrow batteries in service. An Arrow battery has 4-8 launchers and each launcher carries six missiles in containers. The two ton Arrow 1 has been replaced with the 1.3 ton Arrow 2, which can shoot down ballistic missiles fired from Iran. The latest battery to enter service (three years ago) has the new Oren Adir (Magnificent Pine) radar, which has a longer range and is better able to identify potential targets than the existing Green Pine radar.

The United States has long shared the expense of developing Arrow, and this includes contributing over a hundred million dollars for work on the Arrow 3. More than half of the nearly three billion dollar cost of developing and building Arrow has come from the United States. In addition, American firms have done some of the development work or contributed technology. The U.S. has also provided Israel with a mobile X-band radar that enables it to detect incoming ballistic missiles farther away.

Currently the Israeli Green Pine radar can only detect a ballistic missile fired from Iran when the missile warhead is about two minutes from hitting a target in Israel. The X-band radar allows the Iranian missile to be spotted when it is 5-6 minutes away, enabling the Israeli missile to hit the Iranian warhead farther away and with greater certainty. The Arrow 3 is expected to need something like the X-band radar to take advantage of the longer missile range. The Arrow 3 could also use satellite or UAV warnings of distant ballistic missile launches. Arrow 3 weighs about half as much as Arrow 2 and costs about a third less.

In 2010, Israel began increasing the production of its Arrow anti-missile missiles. Costing over three million dollars each, and partly constructed in the United States (by Boeing), the Arrow missiles are one of the few proven anti-missile systems available. Since Arrow entered service, just over 130 missiles have been built. Currently Israel has over a hundred Arrow missiles available and would like to increase that to 200 in the next few years.

 


 

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