from the March 2007 issue

Israel's answer to Iran's BMs

A nuclear Iran appears to be a real possibility, yet the prospect of a nuclear war in the Middle East would not appear to be imminent. Iran is well aware that Israel possesses a return strike capacity which could lead to millions of casualties. Because of this situation, ballistic missiles are becoming an important aspect of a military's arsenal. Israel's main concern is Shahab-3 an Intermediate-range ballistic missile that was built by Iran's military and has a range of 900 miles.

Israel's main deterrence against the dangers from a "dirty" missile attack is its $2.0 billion Arrow Anti Ballistic Missile. Its development began in the early 1990s and in 1998 it had its first successful deployment. The Arrow is the world's only first ABM system, which is specifically developed to destroy incoming missiles. The Arrow Missile is a defense system against medium-range ballistic missiles. It can intercept missiles within a wide spectrum of ranges and altitudes, and can provide protection over large areas. Specifically it is designed to intercept medium- and short-range missiles,in keeping with Israel's perception of its exposure to Iranian missiles.

Israel recently tested successfully the Arrow anti-missile system, in its first nighttime trial, intercepting a test target that simulated the warhead of a long-range Iranian surface-to-surface Shihab-3 missile. "We have never before tried the Arrow against the Sahib characteristics, but we know now that we are capable of intercepting all existing ballistic missile threats in the region, whether conventional or non-conventional, and we are developing capabilities to deal with future threats," said Director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, Aries Herzog.

The trial was carried out under the auspices of the Arrow Systems Improvement Program (ASIP) agreement between Israel the US. It was the fifteenth trial of the Arrow interception system, and the tenth trial of its weapons system. The trial was designed to assess the improvements that have been made to the system, which include the expansion of the range of hostile targets that the system can intercept.

The Arrow is expected to provide the country with a security net that will extend over most of its major cities, including its most populous centers, between Haifa and Ashdod and including Tel-Aviv. The Arrow Missile Project has acquired several dimensions; among them is its deterrence aspect while its political implications are high on the list. Over the past decade, localized skirmishes including the bombing of Libya and the "Scudding" of Israel by Iraq during Desert Storm, as well as Iran's acknowledged missile capability, have created a pressing need for a security net. "Defense News" reports that the US Missile Defense Agency at the Department of Defense has extended financing for the Arrow System Improvement Program (ASIP) by five years. This is seen as an important achievement for the Arrow anti-ballistic missile program, in that the US recognized the system's technology and capabilities, which were demonstrated in the latest trial.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report March 2007

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