Air Defense: Another Headache For Iran

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January 25, 2014: On January 3rd Israel carried out another successful test of its Arrow 3 anti-missile system. Thus Arrow 3 remains on track to enter service in 2015. This version of Arrow can destroy missiles at higher altitudes (over 100 kilometers) and farther away. It was only in February 2013 that Israel conducted the first tests of Arrow 3. The February test was a success and Arrow 3 is expected to enter service in 2014 or 2015. Testing of the new Block 4 version of its Arrow 2 anti-missile missile was completed in 2012 and version 4.1 is now in service.

The 2013 Arrow tests also confirmed the effectiveness of new detection capabilities of the Green Pine radar. The improved Green Pine radar entered service in 2012 and this Block 4 version 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 since 2000 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 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 2011 the Israeli Air Force began receiving the new Arrow 2 anti-missile missile, which is better able to detect and destroy incoming Iranian ballistic missiles. 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 about 150 missiles have been built. Currently Israel has over 110 Arrow missiles available and would like to increase that to 200 in the next few years.

The existence of Arrow means that the only way Iran could successfully hit Israel with a nuke via missile would be to simultaneously (or nearly so) launch several dozen missiles each equipped with a nuclear warhead. Most of these would be shot down by Arrow but at least one would probably land in Israel and detonate. This would be foolhardy because Israel has over a hundred nukes that can be delivered to Iran by ballistic missile, aircraft and submarine launched cruise missile. The Iranians tend to be sensible, but the rhetoric coming from senior Iranian leaders is anything but when it comes to attacking Israel with nukes. In the 1930s the world thought the Germans were sensible people, and Jews everywhere still remember how that turned out. So Israel is ready to defend itself and retaliate. 

 


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