Israel is a small country surrounded by many enemies, facing many security threats. Israel also faces a “high trajectory threat” that involves short-, medium- and long-range ballistic missiles, putting the country in jeopardy of facing an unprecedented barrage. This could involve thousands of missiles fired a day at Israel, and so the country plans to further enhance its multilayered defense capabilities, but it would also need to prevent its enemy from continuing to fire.
Arrow-2 is part of the multi-layered system Israel has developed to defend against both short- and mid-range rockets red from Gaza and Lebanon, as well as Iran’s long-range missiles. It includes Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow-3 system -capable of defending against threats from outside the atmosphere.
The Israel Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency for the first time demonstrated a multilayered air defense system using the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow weapon systems in a recent series of tests. “Using this approach, a variety of threats may be identified and intercepted via full coordination and interoperability between the systems,” Moshe Patel, the head of IMDO, said in Dec 2020. The organization falls under the purview of the Ministry of Defense, whose minster, Benny Gantz, praised the “development of a multilayered air defense system [that] secures us from threats near and far.” “When the different systems in the multilayered mechanism are combined, they may face a variety of simultaneous threats and defend the citizens of the state of Israel,” said retired Brig. Gen. Pini Yungman, executive vice president and head of Rafael’s Air and Missile Defense Division.
The Iron Dome system has been used against rockets and other threats for the last decade, and joint development with the U.S. has supported the Arrow and David’s Sling programs. Israel delivered the first of two Iron Dome batteries to the U.S. Army earlier this year. The Israeli tests,were announced Dec. 2020, saw the systems deploy against cruise missile, UAV and ballistic missile targets.
“U.S.-Israel cooperation on multilayered missile defense technologies continues to advance and is a critical factor in ensuring Israel can defend itself from a diverse array of threats posed by Iran and its proxies,” said Dan Shapiro, a visiting fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel in the Obama administration.
Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the ability of Israel’s Iron Dome system to hit guided munitions is significant, “particularly as Iran increasingly seeks to arm its terrorist proxies with weapons that [have] evasive qualities. Has Israel developed tech to counter Iran’s lethal precision-guided munitions effort? It certainly seems so.”
The changing geopolitical environment in the region — particularly improved Israeli relations with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in recent months — is important, according to Udi Evental, a colonel in Israel’s reserve-duty service and a senior fellow with the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the higher-education institution IDC Herzliya. “The normalization process opens new opportunities both for Israel, Arab states in the Gulf and the U.S.,” Evental said. “Israel might be able to deploy sensors and other means closer to Iran in a way that could offer more and better interception opportunities. … The U.S. could lead the command and control of such an architecture and integrate into it some American assets as well.”
Dan Feferman, a former strategic planner with the Israel Defense Forces and a fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, pointed out that “Iran spent a lot of money developing [its strike] capabilities. So [Israel] is testing [its weapons systems] out, and it is an attempt to show Iran and its proxies that [Israeli] capabilities will soon be neutralized and they might as well not bother trying.”
Israel’s MoD said the tests indicate the systems are capable of simultaneously intercepting threats. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is the prime contractor for the development of the David’s Sling weapon system, in cooperation with the Raytheon. Israel Aerospace Industries’ Elta Systems subsidiary developed the Multi-Mission Radar, and Elbit Systems developed the Golden Almond battle management system, both of which were involved in the tests.
The tests were carried out at sea for safety reasons. The Iron Dome has been integrated with Israel’s Navy in the form of the C-Dome, which is to be deployed with the service’s new Sa’ar 6-class corvettes. Officials said David’s Sling can also be used at sea. During the tests, Iron Dome was used to intercept cruise missiles — a new capability for a system that has historically been deployed against unguided rockets, drones and mortars. Israel has generally used Iron Dome against short-range threats around the Gaza Strip and Golan, while Arrow was used for the first time in 2017 and David’s Sling for the first time in 2018 against threats from Syria.
The Israel Defense Forces also integrated the multitiered system and sensors into a common air picture, tracking threats, sharing data and launching different interceptors with one command-and-control system for the first time. Combining multiple technologies using open architecture and sensors to create a kind of “glass battlefield” digital picture is a technology Rafael has been working on. This is also part of Israel’s multiyear Momentum plan that foresees multilayered air defense as key to success in future wars against local adversaries and what Israel calls “third circle” threats like Iran.
The Arrow program is one of the centerpieces of the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship.
In 2019, The Israeli military together with the US National Missile Defence Agencyconducted an Arrow 3 missile defence system test, Israeli media reported, citing the Israeli Defence Ministry. “Following the launch, the Arrow’s radar spotted the target on its radar array and transferred the data to its fire management centre, which analyzed it and fully planned the interception. Once the planning was completed, an Arrow 3 interceptor was fired at the target, which completed its mission with complete success,” the ministry said in a statement as quoted by The Times of Israel.
As a result, the target was shot down, according to a report referring to the Israeli ministry. The purpose of the test was to verify the modifications made to Arrow 3. The Arrow or Hetz is a family of anti-ballistic missiles designed to fulfill an Israeli requirement for a missile defence system that would be more effective against ballistic missiles than the MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile and can even intercept missiles in space, according to the report.
“We’re entering a new age—the age of the Arrow 3,” said Moshe Patel, the head of Israel’s missile defense program. “Today, we delivered to the air force the first Arrow 3 interceptor, with interception capabilities that are much greater and can be done from much farther away than anything that we have now.”
Israel had successfully completed the testing of upgraded Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system, on December 10, 2015, which was jointly developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and US firm Boeing. Arrow 3 scored its first intercept in a complex test designed to validate how the system can detect, identify, track and then discriminate real from decoy targets delivered into space by an improved Silver Sparrow target missile. According to the Israeli Defence Ministry, the Arrow system destroyed a target missile mimicking the trajectory of the long-range weapons held by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
Arrow 3 is capable of intercepting weapons bearing chemical, biological or nuclear warheads while they are still close to their launch sites. The Arrow 3, along with Iron Dome and David’s Sling, is part of Israel’s three-tiered Missile defence shield, for defense against incoming rockets and missiles, from close-range weapons fired out of Lebanon or Gaza to longer-range threats from Iran. Each Arrow 3 missile is estimated to cost about $2.2 million. Israelis can sleep easy at night, knowing their air defense capabilities will keep them safe from Iranian aggression, says a senior engineer at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Inbal Kreiss expressed confidence in her company’s products Saturday, The Times of Israel reported.
Fearing a potential nuclear threat from Iran, Israel has sought a missile interceptor that operates at a higher altitude and greater range than the Arrow. In October 2007, the United States and Israel agreed to establish a committee to evaluate Israel’s proposed “Arrow III,” an upper-tier system designed to intercept medium-range ballistic missiles.
In the spring and summer of 2008, Israel decided to begin production of the Arrow III and the United States agreed to co-fund its development. In July 2010, the United States and Israel signed a bilateral agreement to extend their cooperation in developing and producing the Arrow III.
For Arrow 3, Boeing is responsible for 15-20 percent of the development content and 40-50 percent of the production content. Expected work content includes motor cases, shroud, canister, Safe & Arm / Ignition Devices, power devices (batteries), and Inertial Navigation Units, as well as several avionics packages and actuators & valves. The program will also provide the U.S. with key research and technology for other “theater missile defense” programs.
Arrow’s design optimized for the specific requirements of Israel’s operational environment.
Given Israel’s small size, all ballistic missiles deployed by hostile Mideast powers represent a potential “strategic” threat to the existence of the Jewish state. Thus, Israel must have an “area” antiballistic missile defense network, based on a high-altitude interceptor like the Arrow, to provide overall protection for the country’s whole population
It is one of the most advanced missile defense systems in existence and when fully operational will offer Israel an essential capability against long-range missiles, such as Scud missiles from Syria, Shihab missiles from Iran or Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Tests of the Arrow also led to the determination that should it intercept a missile with a chemical weapon warhead, no chemical agents would reach the ground given the warhead was destroyed above the jet stream. The jet stream flows from west to east so anything that comes down from the destroyed warhead should be blown back to the sender, according to Uzi Rubin, the former head of the Arrow program.
Arrow 3 provides Area Defence capability
The threat of more sophisticated missiles, including the threat of weapons of mass destruction, requires a multi-tiered approach. Arrow 3, Israel’s longest range interceptor, will add to the Arrow 2 capability, providing a new layer to Israel’s intercept capability, engaging threats in space far beyond Israel’s borders.
Arrow 3 is designed to intercept long-range missiles, including intermediate-range ballistic missiles at altitudes of more than 100km and in greater ranges, as well as those equipped with non-conventional warheads or could be ship-based.
Arrow 3 can be launched into an area of space before it is known where the target missile is going. When the target and its course are identified, the Arrow interceptor is redirected using its thrust-vectoring nozzle to close the gap and conduct a “body-to-body” interception. It is designed with a kill ratio of around 99 percent. An Arrow 3 battery is expected to intercept salvos of more than five ballistic missiles within 30 seconds.
The range and speed of Arrow — capable of reaching a height of 30 miles at nine times the speed of sound — will allow hostile missiles to be intercepted high enough so that any weapons of mass destruction would not detonate or be dispersed over Israel.
This also allows time for a second Arrow missile to be fired if it is determined that the first has not intercepted the incoming target. It is supposed to detect and track missiles as far away as 300 miles and then disable the incoming warhead by exploding within 40 to 50 yards of the target.
According to Tal Inbar, head of the Space Research Center at the Fisher Institute for Air & Space Strategic Studies, “The operational significance of the Arrow 3, once its development is complete, is clear: Israel will be better able to defend itself, at higher altitudes and further away from its borders.
Arrow 3, is also a two-stage interceptor like Arrow 2, however is faster than the and slightly smaller, weighing nearly half. It incorporates new communications, guidance and seeker technology to combat a continually advancing threat. Israel Aerospace Industries announced in June 2009, that the Arrow 3 patented exo atmospheric interception method includes a two-stage interceptor, like the Arrow 2, but purely based on hit-to-kill technology. Unlike most kill vehicles, which use liquid or gas propulsion, the new Israeli kill vehicle will be propelled by an ordinary rocket motor equipped with a thrust-vectoring nozzle. The interceptor also can maneuver in space.
Arrow 3 is fitted with a high resolution Electro-Optical (EO) sensor along with gimbaled seeker for hemispheric coverage. By measuring the seeker’s line-of-sight propagation relative to the vehicle’s motion, the kill vehicle will use proportional navigation to divert its course and line up exactly with the target’s flight path.
The system features capabilities similar to those on US Aegis destroyers, and can intercept land and sea missiles. The interceptor integrates seamlessly into the Arrow Weapon System (AWS), complementing the current and future blocks of the Arrow 2, and enabling multiple engagement opportunities through its large kinematic envelope and short flight time.
Effective against all types of Warheads
The kill vehicles fired by the Arrow 3 system, are also known as “kamikaze satellites”. They are said to be able to identify and trail chemical, biological or nuclear warheads above the Earth’s atmosphere. The system has no way to distinguish between types of warheads; therefore, it was designed to destroy all types.
Joseph Hasson, chief missile designer at IAI, who patented the new kill vehicle with his colleague Galya Goldner, says that the concept is relatively simple, reliable and inexpensive, and is based on mature technologies. Furthermore, the kill vehicle’s divert capability and agility reduce the need for detection and tracking systems, which usually accompany remote sensor-assisted exoatmospheric kills. IAI displayed a full-sized model of the Arrow 3 missile and its kill vehicle at the June 2009 Paris Air Show.
Other System Elements
Other system elements are a launch control center, fire-control radar and battle management center. The new component will also require the integration of longer range target detection, tracking and discrimination capability, beyond what the “Green Pine” and “Super Green Pine” radars employed with the Arrow 2 are providing. The Green Pine has a search and track range of around 400 km. Among the advanced sensors considered for Israel’s future multi-tier system, are airborne electro-optical sensors deployed on high flying unmanned aerial vehicles and future enhanced “Green Pine” radars, as well as the AN/TPY-2 radar already deployed in Israel, and operated by U.S. forces.
According to numerous Israeli experts, namely Prof. Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, former director of the Israeli Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure and currently the chairman of the Israeli Space Agency, it is also possible that the Arrow 3 could serve as an anti-satellite weapon similar to the US SM-3 missile.
On February 25, 2013 a fly-out test of the Arrow 3 was conducted from Palmachim Airbase. The launch tested the missile control and engines. According to a senior defense source, the missile obtained hypersonic speed, and reached an altitude of 100 km (62 mi), entering space. It followed various objects, such as stars, and gained further altitude. Its engine stopped after six minutes.
On January 3, 2014 another successful test of the Arrow 3 was conducted from Palmachim Airbase. During the test the interceptor entered space and carried out a range of maneuvers in response to a virtual incoming enemy missile. The test involved the activation of two of the interceptor’s engines, the first of which brought it into space, and the second allowing it to carry out complex maneuvers.
In December 2014 a test aimed to debut an exo-atmospheric intercept capabilities of Arrow 3 has been characterized as a “no test”, given that “conditions did not allow for” actual launch of the intercepting missile.