Air Defense: Arrow Gets Better Vision


February 14, 2012: Israel recently conducted another successful test of its Arrow 2 anti-missile system. The main purpose of this test was to confirm the effectiveness of new detection capabilities of the Green Pine radar. The target was launched from an F-15 fighter. The improved Green Pine radar will enter service later this year.

The Arrow has been in service for 12 years and has racked up an impressive string of successes in test launches. Designed to deal with short and medium range ballistic missiles, it protects Israel from Syrian and Iranian missiles. Israel itself has three batteries of Arrow anti-missile missiles. The latest battery to enter service (two 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. 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 anywhere else in the neighborhood. The two ton Arrow 1 has been 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 2-3 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 one of the few proven anti-missile systems available. 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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