TEL AVIV — The US-Israel Arrow Weapon System (AWS) and its Upper-Tier Arrow-3 missile scored its first intercept Thursday in a complex test designed to validate how the system can detect, identify, track and then discriminate real from decoy targets traveling quickly through space.
By 8:17 a.m., the system had selected from among several objects flying through space — each not much larger than a one liter bottle of Coke — and steered its warhead into a direct hit of the correct target, program officials said.
"The Arrow system in operational configuration detected and selected the right target from several in exo-atmospheric conditions. We intercepted the correct target very accurately as planned from the beginning," said Yair Ramati, director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO).
"It was truly unprecedented, and it all occurred deep in space," Levy added.
"After two successful flyouts, one no-test and now one successful interception, we're looking forward to working together with the US Missile Defense Agency" on continued spiral development and eventual deployment of Arrow-3 as part of the AWS, Ramati said.
Designed to fly nearly twice as high at half the weight of Arrow-2, the Arrow-3 will constitute Israel's upper-most layer of the Arrow Weapon System in defense against advanced, maneuvering Iranian Shihab-class ballistic missiles.
The interceptor is expected to provide multiple opportunities to destroy targets in space, with backup provided by Arrow-2, which is designed to intercept targets high in Earth's atmosphere.
In salvo scenarios, Arrow-3 will be able to shoot twice against a single target, assess for battle damage and, if needed, divert to other approaching threats.
According to Pentagon budget justification documents, the upper-tier Arrow-3 "will increase the system's capability against advanced threats by providing approximately four times the current Arrow-2 battlespace."
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.