It is called “Arrow-3” but it is drastically different from the “Arrow-2” system, which is used nowadays in the Active Defense units of the IAF. How is it different? What advantages does the new system bring with it? How will the new missile successfully intercept ballistic missiles far away in space? Here are some of the answers
“A spaceship that intercepts missiles in Space”, explains Colonel Tzvika Haimovitch, commander of the Active Defense Branch of the Aerial Defense Division, when he is asked what the Arrow-3 is.”I know, it sounds like it’s bordering on Sci-fi”, he admits with a smile, “When we started the process 15 years ago, we thought it was only theoretically possible, but today it’s a reality”.
Indeed, the space where the system operates and its physical form both lead to one, single conclusion. “We consider the system more of a spaceship than a missile”, says Brigadier General Shahar Shohat, commander of the Aerial Defense Division. “It is more similar to a spacecraft than to one of the other missiles in our possession”.
In fact, the system does not look like anything anyone has seen and after two successful test launches and before interception test that will be held in the future, the IAF is preparing for its integration.
“We have been testing it for some time now and in the field of weaponry and in the mechanical branch, there are already officers preparing for its integration, learning about the system, training in combat laboratories and working on formulating the combat doctrine so that the day the operational system arrives, we’ll know how to manage and won’t waste time”, explains Brigadier General Shohat.
One Above The Other
The Multi-layered Doctrine of the Active Defense concept of the IDF is well known: the “Iron Dome” system constitutes the low-level layer of defense, which will intercept short-range rockets and missiles; above it, the “Stunner” system, which will soon be operational and intercept mid-range missiles and above these systems, the “Arrow-2” system, which is responsible for high-altitude defense against long-range missiles.
“When the Arrow-3 system becomes operational, it will actually constitute its own layer, which is called the “very high layer” and will give us more tools and opportunities to deal with the significant threats we are likely to encounter in the future, such as ballistic missiles that are likely to carry weapons of mass destruction”, says Brigadier General Shohat.
“The Multi-layered Doctrine gives us a wide range of options in dealing with the threats”, insists Colonel Haimovitch, who commands the Active Defense Branch, which is responsible for the development and implementation of the doctrine.
Nowadays, the systems work in sync with one another and are classified by the designated interception needs. The integration of the Arrow-3 will raise the bar to interceptions in space. “When the threats in the Middle East started to change and we understood that we had to increase the percentage of successful hits, we decided to develop a system that would know how to intercept the threats at a higher altitude”, explains Boaz Levy, head of the Missile and Space Systems Unit at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) where the Arrow-3 system is manufactured. “The new missile is built for interceptions in Space and that way it will not have to deal with the challenges of interception within the atmosphere, such as heat and friction”.
“The State of Israel has one single, special solution in the world to the threats of different missiles”, explains Colonel Haimovitch. “I believe that in the coming years, Israel will have a complete, multi-layered and active defense, which will be adjusted to the different threats-though, it won’t be hermetic, because in this field you can never get to 100% perfection”.
Of A Different Magnitude
What unique addition will the Arrow-3 system bring? The Arrow-2 system has been operational with the IAF since the year 2000 and it includes the “Mighty Pine” radar system built by Elta of the IAI, which serves as a warning and detection unit; a control center; a launching control center; launching pads and missiles. The missile is launched towards a target based on the findings of the systems and intercepts it at different altitudes based on the type of threat and its level of severity. “We have produced a smaller missile with an array of capabilities”, explains Boaz Levy. “The Arrow-3 system responds with tremendous speed and without input from the system operator, so that it can neutralize any relevant threat”.
“The range of capabilities expands the active defense and adds capabilities of a completely different magnitude. It will include missile-interception at an altitude that is much higher than the altitude nowadays”, adds Lieutenant Colonel Gil Dolov, commander of the “Sword Shield” unit, which will integrate the Arrow-3 system.
The Missile and Space Systems Unit at Israel Aerospace Industries is responsible for the production of the Arrow-3 system. The unit had to produce a tool that would be able to perform the necessary maneuvers to detect and hit the target under Space-conditions, which proved to be a unique challenge, with which the unit had not been used to dealing.
As previously stated, the Arrow-3 system is a complementary system, meaning that it is joining the existing system-not replacing them, that way its unique capabilities will allow for additional opportunities to intercept any target.
“Actually, every ballistic missile that is launched at the State of Israel has three stages: the launching stage, the flying stage and atmosphere-penetrating stage. Unlike the Arrow-2 , which intercepts the target at the atmosphere-penetration stage, the Arrow-3 system intercepts early on, in the flying stage, when the missile is in its highest altitude and that way, if need be, the other systems will have second and third opportunity to intercept it”.
Soon To Be Operational
Until now, the system has been tested in two trials in which the missile was launched on a trajectory considered complicated in order to ascertain whether it was capable of performing as designed in the sketches.
“In the first trial that was held around a year ago, the different missile systems were checked separately and only after it achieved success, did we start to connect them into one, single unit”, explains Levy. “In the second trial that was held a few months ago, the combination of systems was checked and as far as we were concerned, that was the “green light” to the missile program”.
The Aerial Defense Division is satisfied with trials that have taken place until now. “To my delight, everything works well with Israel Aerospace Industries and we are very satisfied with the cooperation”, says Brigadier General Shohat.
Breaking New Records
The Arrow system works in conjunction with other systems in order to optimally address aerial interception. The system has the ability to provide the best solution, in terms of detection, identification and estimation of the trajectory and interception. The next trial will be the interception trial, for which both the IAI and the IAF are intently preparing, as it will be the most important milestone in the journey to integration in the IAF. “For us, this is a significant milestone”, Brigadier General Shohat stresses, “This really pushes the envelope. We will verify that there is actually a meeting with the target in the air and that the interception is executed at the proper altitude”.
“We always strive to break new records and to advance”, Colonel Haimovitch concludes.