Air Defense: America Buys Into New Israeli Tech


December 30, 2011: The U.S. has agreed to invest another $235 million in Israeli anti-missile efforts. The money is going to two systems. The less well-known one is the David's Sling/Magic Wand air and missile defense system being developed as a replacement for the American Patriot system. The Magic Wand missiles have a longer range (300 kilometers) and better capabilities than Patriot. The American manufacturer of Patriot is cooperating with work on Magic Wand and the U.S. investment gives America access to any new technology. Magic Wand is expected to be ready for service in 2-3 years and would eventually replace Israeli Hawk and Patriot anti-aircraft batteries.

A year ago there were successful tests of the Stunner missiles (yet another development of the Israeli Python heat seeking air-to-air missile) to be used by Magic Wand. Stunner apparently came out of the work to develop the Spyder anti-aircraft missile.

Spyder is a mobile short range system using, as many such systems do these days, air-to-air missiles. Spyder launchers (truck mounted, with four box like launch cells each) can carry either the Python 5 heat seeking missile (3.22 meters/ten feet long, 105 kg/231 pounds, with a range of 15 kilometers) or the Derby radar guided missile (3.6 meters/11.2 feet long, 122 kg/267 pounds, with a range of 65 kilometers). The Derby is actually a larger Python, with more fuel and a different guidance system. Stunner appears to be a slightly longer Spyder/Derby missile with dual seekers in the nose.

The Spyder radar system has a maximum range of 100 kilometers. The missiles can hit targets as high as 9 kilometers (28,000 feet) and as low as 20 meters (65 feet). With boosters (to increase speed at launch) and the right seekers, a modified Spyder could take down incoming long-range rockets. Magic Wand depends on longer range radars to get target location and speed information to the Spyder/Magic Wand launchers. Once launched, the Stunner is guided to the general location of the incoming rocket until the Stunner's on-board sensors pick it up and then home in and destroy the long range rocket.

Then there is Arrow. In 2010 Israel formed a third battery of Arrow anti-missile missiles. The battery will have 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 two older batteries have over a hundred missiles available. An Arrow battery has 4-8 launchers and each launcher carries six missiles in containers. The Arrow was developed to knock down Scud type missiles fired from Syria, Saudi Arabia, or Iraq. The two ton Arrow 1 is being replaced with the 1.3 ton Arrow 2, which can shoot down ballistic missiles fired from Iran. Israel is currently developing and testing an upgraded Arrow 2, which can take down longer range Iranian missiles. The even more effective Arrow 3 is not expected to be ready for use for at least three years.

The United States has long shared the expense of developing the Israeli Arrow anti-missile missile system. This includes contributing over a hundred million dollars for work on the Arrow 3. More than half 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 Arrow anti-missile 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. First tests of Arrow 3 are to take place next year.

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 Israel's principal defense against Syrian and Iranian ballistic missiles. Since Arrow entered service ten years ago, only about 120 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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