TEL AVIV — The Israeli Air Force declared initial operational capability on Wednesday of the Arrow-3 intercepting system, the nation's newest, upper-tier layer of a multi-tiered defense network against ballistic missiles.

The Arrow-3 interceptor, part of the joint US-Israel Arrow Weapon System (AWS), was delivered into Air Force hands in ceremonies today attended by MoD developers and defense industry representatives, including prime contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and its US partner Boeing Co.

Representing the Pentagon was US Air Force Brig. Gen. William Cooley, program executive for the Missile Defense Agency.

"Today we're entering a new era; the Arrow-3 era," said Moshe Patel, head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO). "We're very proud to deliver to the Israel Air Force the first initial capability of Arrow-3 … [a program] we've worked on for the last ten years, together with MDA and with a lot of help from the US Congress and the US administration."

Designed to fly nearly twice as high at half the weight of Arrow-2 — which covers the lower-tier segment of AWS — Arrow-3 is Israel's first line of 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, also produced by IAI with key components produced in the US by Boeing.

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, program officials here say.

Both Arrow-3 and Arrow-2 interceptors are supported by a common AWS, which includes the Super Green Pine radar by IAI's Elta Systems, and the Citron Tree Battle Management Center and Hazelnut Tree Launcher Control Center by Elbit Systems. State-owned Israel Military Industries produces the rocket motor for both Arrow interceptors, with Boeing supporting the largely US-funded program with US-based production of the two Arrow missiles.

"Arrow-3 is the result of many years of development efforts, based on a solution for an additional level of air defense allowing missile interception at very high altitudes in space," noted Boaz Levi, IAI's vice president and general manager of the firm's Systems, Missiles & Space Group, who has worked and managed the program from the beginning.

Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovich, head of the Israeli Air Defense Force, said Arrow-3 now joins Arrow-2, David's Sling and Iron Dome in the multi-tiered network that protects the nation against a full spectrum of ballistic missiles and rocket threats. Collectively, Israel's active defense network "brings us to another era in our ability to deal with incoming threats from the north, south, east and non-state actors," Haimovich said.

Last September, the US and Israel signed a new 10-year military aid deal that assures Israel $5 billion in missile defense funding from fiscal year 2019 through fiscal year 2028.

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

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