Israel Hails ‘Successful’ Test of Antiballistic Missile System


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The test launch of the Arrow 3 antiballistic missile system near Ashdod, Israel, on Thursday.

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Amir Cohen/Reuters

JERUSALEM — Israel’s advanced Arrow 3 antiballistic missile system intercepted a target on Thursday in a region of space just outside the earth’s atmosphere in the first successful test of its kind, according to Defense Ministry officials.

The system, which is being jointly developed by the government-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and its subsidiaries and the American Boeing Company, is not yet operational.

But analysts described the interception as an important step in Israel’s effort to defend itself against the potential threat of ballistic missiles armed with nuclear and other nonconventional warheads from enemies like Iran.

Yair Ramati, the director of the Defense Ministry’s missile defense organization, said in a call with reporters about 90 minutes after the Arrow 3 interceptor missile was launched that the engagement of a ballistic missile target was “successful and accurate.”

The test was conducted with the United States Missile Defense Agency from an Israeli test range. The target was launched somewhere above the Mediterranean Sea.

The Arrow 3 is intended to be the top tier of Israel’s multilayered air defense system, which has received substantial funding from the United States. The Iron Dome system intercepts less sophisticated, shorter-range rockets like those fired into Israel from Gaza, while another system, David’s Sling, which is expected to become operational soon, is meant to intercept midrange missiles.

The Arrow 2 system intercepts ballistic missiles higher up, but is slower than the Arrow 3, which can also maneuver in space, Israeli officials have said.

An Arrow 3 test interception was aborted about a year ago because of a problem with the target. The Arrow 2 has been successful in live-fire tests, but has not yet been used in a real field of battle.

“One successful test still does not guarantee that the innovative system is already operational and can be deployed in battle conditions,” Ron Ben-Yishai, a military affairs analyst for Ynet, an Israeli news site, wrote on Thursday. “But we, the citizens of Israel, can sleep a bit easier today than last night,” he added.

Mr. Ben-Yishai also contended that the international agreement reached this year with Iran to curb its nuclear program, a deal that was strongly denounced by Israel’s leaders, had given Israel a kind of timeout of a few years during which it could more fully develop its defenses.



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