Israel, US jointly test missile interceptor

Jerusalem : Israel’s defence ministry said Tuesday it launched an Arrow 2 interceptor to test recent improvements made to the anti-ballistic missile shield.

The ministry’s Missile Defence Organisation and officials with the US Missile Defence Agency jointly oversaw the trial which was held at a test range at the Palmahim air base, south of Tel Aviv.

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Civilians reported seeing the missile’s trail from the city of Ashdod and other areas as it flew its trajectory over the Mediterranean Sea.

Designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles high in the stratosphere, the Arrow 2, developed in conjunction with the US and largely underwritten by it, became operational in the Israeli Air Force in 2000.

“Like all of Israel’s air defences, Arrow 2 is constantly undergoing technological improvements and upgrades,” Jonathan Mosery, a defence ministry spokesman, told Xinhua.

He said Tuesday’s trial was aimed at examining the capabilities of the interceptor’s latest version against “current and future regional threats”.

The defence ministry statement underscored that the test was not connected to the Arrow 2’s current operational performance, which is suitable for coping with existing threats.

While details of Tuesday’s trial were scarce, Israel is engaged in an overhaul of the Arrow interceptor family that is reportedly expected to merge the Arrow 2 and the next-generation Arrow 3, which is still in the development phase, into a single national missile defence system.

The programme is planned to include new ground and airborne sensors, a command and control system and a new target missile for simulating Iranian missiles potentially capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

Israel believes that a nuclear-armed Iran, its arch enemy, would threaten its existence. Iran claims that its disputed nuclear programme is solely intended for peaceful purposes, mainly electricity production.

The US Missile Defence Agency had previously said that the overhaul was aimed at enabling Israel to deal with “more stressing regional threats” by increasing the country’s defended area by 50 percent, among other significant improvements.

Earlier this year, the Arrow 3 was test-launched for the second time. After entering space, it successfully performed a series of manoeuvres against a virtual enemy missile.

A senior defence ministry official reported at the time that the system’s Super Green Pine radar successfully tracked the target and relayed commands to the interceptor.