Israel Tests Anti-Ballistic Missile System

By Matti Friedman | April 7, 2009 | 8:28 AM EDT
Jerusalem (AP) - Israel successfully tested an anti-missile system designed to protect the country from attack by Iran, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.
The intercept of a dummy missile was the latest test of the Arrow system, a U.S.-Israeli joint venture. Israeli defense officials said the interceptor was an upgraded Arrow II, designed to counter Iran's Shahab ballistic missile.
Representatives of the Pentagon were present at the test, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity pending an official announcement.
In a statement, the Defense Ministry said the interceptor shot down "a missile simulating a ballistic threat in especially challenging conditions."
It called the test "an important step in the development program and the development of operational abilities to counter the growing threat of ballistic missiles in the region." Defense Minister Ehud Barak watched Tuesday's intercept from a military helicopter, the ministry said.
Israel believes Iran is developing nuclear weapons that could pose an existential threat to the Jewish state. Iran denies that and says its nuclear work is for peaceful purposes such as energy production.
Israel has threatened military action, and Iran has said it would strike back, warning last month that Israel's own nuclear facilities were within missile range.
The Arrow project is being developed by Israel Aircraft Industries and Chicago-based Boeing Co. at a cost of more than $1 billion. It was spurred largely by the failure of the U.S. military's Patriot missiles to intercept Iraqi Scud rockets that struck Israel in the 1991 Gulf War.
Several batteries of Arrow missiles are already operational.
Iran's Shahab-3 missiles have a range of up to 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers), putting Israel within striking distance.
Iran has worked hard to increase the accuracy of its missiles. In November, it successfully test-fired the Sajjil, a solid fuel high-speed missile with a range 1,250 miles. Solid fuel is considered a significant breakthrough because it increases accuracy.
Israel is also developing a system to counter short and medium range rockets of the kind possessed by Palestinian and Lebanese militants. The system, called the Iron Dome, is set to be deployed next year.
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