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Fast Track: Arrow 3 Raising The Bar on Missile Defense (Video)

Israeli program & needs dictate faster, higher capabilities

Arrow3

Boeing CGI of the jointly in development IAI Arrow 3 ABM interceptor

Last year, the USA radically altered its ballistic missile defense plans by scrapping its long range ICBM defense plan based in Europe in favor of shorter medium range defense systems. The main component of the new plans would be the SM-3 interceptor, currently in use on American AEGIS ABM Cruisers.

A major focus of the plan was to upgrade the SM3  interceptors themselves in capability, making them adaptable to launches from the ground as opposed to only at sea, amongst other capability upgrades in newer block variants of the missile.

Joint Effort

During testimony to the Armed Services Committee as a result of the scrapping of the ICBM program, we learned more about the Israeli Arrow - the next generation Israeli interceptor as well as the future of the SM-3. The new Israeli interceptor incorporates some intense new enhancements, and if deployed as planned will represent a significant jump forward for Israeli missile defense. If successful the program due to its advanced technology will likely also be employed by the USA, as it is slated to surpass the SM3 interceptors in capability and do so in the near term.

Leapfrogging current capability

The Israeli concept is to take the medium range interceptor Arrow 2s and make them more versatile in two ways. Exo Atmospheric, enabling them to intercept targets outside the atmosphere, combined with some radical advancements in self propulsion & sensors. In other words Israel wants the system to be able to self guide itself outside the atmosphere once the booster is released, allowing the actual interceptor warhead to track and seek targets solo. Instead of having multiple system designed for medium & longer range ICBMs Israel wants to combine it all into a medium system that can hit long range ICBMs in space, at least that’s my understanding of it all..

Lieutenant General Patrick J. O’Reilly, Director of the MDA:

“The design of Arrow 3 promises to be an extremely capable system, more advanced than what we have ever attempted in the U.S. with our programs” Gen. O’Reilly told the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services subcommittee for strategic forces. “This has to do with the seekers that have greater flexibility and other aspects, such as propulsion systems- it will be an extremely capable system”.

The benefits of the new interceptor would include the ability to sense decoys, and re-route interception to another target. Equally, in multiple volleys with large numbers of incoming missiles the system could in theory allow Israel to send up multiple ABM missiles and the individual interceptors could re-target other warheads if their initial target were already destroyed or perhaps missed.

Science Fiction?

The Americans say.. Possibly. The reasoning lies not behind the radical Israeli technology which makes all this theoretically feasible, but the compressed time frames. General Oreilly (the father of US ABM currently) laid out how the US goes about fielding & testing US programs (Video), usually measured in years verging on a decade or more. Israel seeks to develop, field & test this radical jump in just a few scant years.

The Israel Air Force will hold its first test of the Arrow 3, under development by Israel Aerospace Industries, in early 2011, officials said on Wednesday.

Jointly developed by IAI and Boeing in the US, the Arrow 3 will serve as Israel’s top-tier missile defense system, adding another layer of defense to that provided by the Arrow 2, which is already operational and deployed throughout Israel.

The initial test of the Arrow 3 will not include the interception of a mock enemy missile. An interception test will likely take place in 2012.

“The Arrow system can effectively counter all of the missile threats that exist in the region,” said Inbal Kreiss, the Arrow 3 project manager at IAI. [...]

The much more cautious Americans are skeptical, firstly they generally spend a ton more money than Israel does in development and this translates on time frames as well. Israel does development leaner & meaner in this regard as a consequence of not having as much funding or time for that matter.

In written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee June 16, O’Reilly said the Arrow-3 program has “very high schedule and technical risk,” leading MDA to fund work on a land-based version of the SM-3 as a backup.

Integration

Some of the benefits of this US skepticism are integration, as a backup Israeli arrow launchers will be modified to house the American SM3 interceptors (who’s advancement as stated will be longer in the coming). Equally, the Arrow 3 if successful will be able to integrate to American sea based launchers. Overall, the radar & detection systems are also being integrated more globally in line with the American new plan for its own missile defenses, as evidenced already by the deployment of the US X-Band Radar in Israel by G. W. Bush.

Can we succeed?

They said the Arrow itself (Hetz) could not be done as well in the 80s when it was initially proposed. The Arrow 2 is now fully deployed and can intercept Scuds & basic Shahabs as we speak. I would not bet against Israel again moving the ball forward in ABM Missile Defense. As it is the rush is on because of Iran’s large leaps in fielding ICBMs and nuclear capable missiles. In the end we don’t have much choice BUT to succeed..

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