The Israeli military launched a test for its new Arrow 3 interception missile on Tuesday morning, after an exchange of fire with Iranian forces in Syria put the region on high alert over the weekend, like reported by i24news.tv.
A dummy target was launched just before 7 am in central Israel, with its scope engineered to imitate a long-range ballistic missile, the kind of weapons that it is built to bring down.
“Arrow Weapon System radars detected it and transferred the data to the battle management control, which then established a defense plan,” a statement released by the Ministry of Defense read.
“At the right moment, the Arrow-3 interceptor was launched towards the target and successfully completed its mission,” it added.
The test was completed in partnership with other branches, and the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA). The Arrow 3 is the third iteration of a rocket in a joint project with the USA, first launched in 1988 as part of the then Star Wars program under late US president Ronald Reagan.
Arrow is the jewel in Israel’s multi-layered defense system, one of the most powerful weapons of its kind in the world. Able to intercept missiles at greater ranges, heights and travelling at faster speeds, it has significantly upgraded the Jewish state’s aerial defense mechanisms in the face of emerging threats.
It was built with Iran in mind, and all eyes were turned towards Tehran when Israel announced the successful test on Tuesday.
Israel attacked a reported 38 targets inside Syria in the night of Sunday, taking the unprecedented step to publicize the attack as it was happening.
The attack, which the Israeli military said was an answer to an earlier surface-to-surface missile launched into Israeli territory by Iranian forces in Syria, destroyed at least two Iranian bases, one weapons depot, and several Syrian air defense batteries.
It killed 11, according the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, including Iranian troops, Hezbollah operatives and at least two Syrian soldiers. This makes it the deadliest strikes by Israel in Syria since a May 2018 offensive that killed 23.
The May attack followed the same protocol, with Israeli jets responding heavily to incoming Iranian fire from Syria.
The Arrow test definitely constitutes a show of force as Israel amps up its rhetoric against Iranian encroachment in war-torn Syria, amid a surprise US pullout.
The Israeli political establishment is also facing snap election in April 9th, with security, and especially Iranian influence in the region, a major concern within the Israeli public.
On Tuesday, former chief of staff and defense minister Moshe Ya’alon blasted the prime minister for publicizing the IDF’s moves for political reasons.
He called it “finger-tapping in the eyes of the other side, forcing it to respond,” the former defense minister said in an editorial in Israeli daily Maariv, indicating that Netanyahu had consistently broken with IDF customs of secrecy.
Netanyahu told reporters on Sunday that “we have a permanent policy: to strike at the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and hurt whoever tries to hurt us.”
Reactions from the Russian establishment, a Syrian ally with presence on the ground and that supplies Damascus with weaponry and logistical support, remained laconic and factual.
This is despite numerous reports that Moscow has become frustrated with Israel’s ballistic incursions threatening their attempts at normalizing the Syrian regime.
Israelis are careful to manage their relationship with Russia, but consider Iranian presence on Syrian territory a major security threat.
Arrow-3 constitutes the fourth pillar and highest level of Israel’s multi-layered defense system. The other tiers include the Iron Dome system for intercepting short range missiles, ‘David’s Sling’ a medium-range missile defense system and Arrow-2 weapons system for long-range rockets.
The primary contractor for the integration and development of the Arrow Weapon System is MLM of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) along with America’s Boeing, Elta, Elbit Systems, IMI, and Rafael.
Despite testing difficulties delaying its launch, it was declared fully operational in July last year, after a successful test in February.
The Arrow project is costly – every ‘interceptor’ costs $3 million dollars, and the two partners reportedly paid more than $130 million on the program in 2018 alone. Initially budgeted at $1.6 billion, Arrow has until now cost more than $3.7 billion dollars, with the USA picking the larger part of the bill.
It has reportedly been used only once, with an Arrow 2 interceptor shooting down a Syrian surface-to-air missile aiming at an Israeli jet – a threat it was not designed to counter. An Israeli military official told Defense Times at the time that the missile had “behaved like a ballistic threat.”