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ISRAEL Upgraded Arrow 3 test has kinetic kill on simulated Iranian ballistic missile

By Arie Egozi on January 19, 2022 at 9:38 AM

An Arrow-3 interceptor is launched during a Jan. 18, 2022 live fire test.

(Israel Ministry of Defense)

TEL AVIV: This week’s successful test of an upgraded Arrow-3 ballistic missile interceptor is an important step in Israel’s homeland defense plans, as Israel seeks to counter advanced Iranian ballistic systems.

Two upgraded Arrow-3 interceptors were launched simultaneously against two targets that were imitating emerging threat capabilities from Iran, including a multiple independently targeted reentry vehicle (MIRV), salvos of ballistic missiles and maneuvering warheads.

Israeli sources that were present in the control room in the Palmachim IAF base told Breaking Defense that the targets were destroyed by kinetic kill. The sources added that the full systems, including the upgraded Green Pine radar, worked as intended and were key parts of the complicated intercepts.

The test was the first live-fire intercept test of the upgraded Arrow-3, which has been given a series of technical upgrades to match what sources have described as a “new breed” of ballistic missile from Iran.

The Jan 18. test was conducted jointly by the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO), its US counterpart the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Israeli armed forces. According to the official announcement, operational radars detected the target and transferred data to the battle management control, which analyzed the data and established a defense plan. After the defense plan was established, two Arrow-3 interceptors were launched toward the target and completed the mission.

The targets depicting some of these emerging threats in the test were developed by Israeli-firm Rafael, and were launched by Israeli Air Force F-15 over the Mediterranean.

“This test was designed to challenge every element of the Arrow Weapon System, and it performed beautifully. Data collected from this test guide future development of the AWS,” said MDA director Vice Adm. Jon Hill in a statement. “MDA remains committed to assisting the Government of Israel in upgrading its missile defense capability against current and emerging threats.”

Chief of the IDF General Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi called the test “another element in our ability to respond to developing threats in the region, and is a part of the implementation of the IDF’s multi-year plan.”

The Arrow is a central part of Israel’s multi-layered defense array that also includes the Iron Dome Defense System and David’s Sling Weapon System. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is the primary contractor for the development of the Arrow Weapon System and Arrow interceptors, with a number of other Israeli firms involved in the project.

While the current Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 systems are operational, and the Arrow-3 continues to receive upgraded capabilities, IAI is currently developing the Arrow-4. In a notable design tweak, the Arrow-4 will have winglets because it is designed to intercept inside the atmosphere, according to sources.

Iranian Developments

Any missile defense test attracts eyeballs, but the ability of the Arrow-3 to successfully intercept advanced threats simulated during the test are important, as Iran showed off new ballistic missile capabilities that the older version of Arrow may not be able to protect against.

One Israeli expert points to a major concern: that Iran’s growing space-launch capability is a cover for growing its ballistic missile technologies.

On February 2, 2008 Iran became the ninth country with the capability to launch satellites. This when it successfully orbited its first satellite, the Omid, by its newly developed Safir space launch rocket, an adaptation of the Shahab 3 military ballistic missile.

In an article for the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, Uzi Rubin, a well-respected Israeli expert on ballistic missiles who previously led the missile defense organization, wrote that the 2008 test set the stage for Iran’s unveiling of the Zuljanah solid-propellant space launch vehicle, which had its maiden voyage in Feb. 2021.

While no satellite was launched from the Zuljanah , Rubin wrote that “this first flight of the new space launcher was a preliminary suborbital flight test to check out flight characteristics and the launch sequence rather than an audacious leap into a fully-fledged space shot.”

According to the Israeli expert the solid propellant Zuljanah represents a potential threat. A ballistic missile using its two huge solid-propellant stages could probably deliver payloads of 500 kg. or so to ranges of 4,000 KM or more – enough to reach all of Europe.

“In other words, the Zuljanah is a candidate precursor for a ready-to-launch, survivable IRBM aimed at the core members of the EU,” he wrote. “Moreover, the official Iranian release mentioned that the Zuljanah could be fired in the future from mobile launchers; a capability more appropriate for a military IRBM than a peaceful civilian space launcher. The impression is that the Iranian leadership is stretching thin the cover story of its ‘civilian’ space program, in tandem with stretching its compliance with the Nuclear Deal, to accumulate bargaining chips for its forthcoming negotiation over the US return to the nuclear deal.”

Speaking to Breaking Defense, Rubin claimed that the Iranians have bought North Korean technology to help develop the Khorramshar ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 KM. “This ballistic missile can carry a warhead with a max weight of two tons,” he said. “This missile is 13 meters long and powered by liquid fuel.”

The Israeli expert added that the Iranians have another long-range ballistic missile powered by solid fuel. This missile, the Sejil, has a range of 2,000 KM and can carry a warhead weighing up to 2,000 KG. “The Iranian long-range ballistic missiles are a real imminent threat that is being upgraded continuously” Rubin said.

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