Israel’s Arrow Theater Missile Defense
In a dawning age of rogue states, ballistic missile defenses are steadily become a widely accepted necessity. Iran is widely believed to be developing nuclear capabilities, and Israeli concerns were heightened after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged that Israel be “wiped off the map” (the fact that America was also placed in that category went largely uncovered).
Because missile defenses are so important, states like India and Israel have taken steps to ensure that they have the ability to build many of the key pieces. The Arrow project is a collaboration between Boeing and IAI to produce the missile interceptors that accompany the required radars, satellites, command and control systems.
NOTE: Article capped and coverage suspended in 2011.
The Arrow System
In general, the Israeli Arrow is a more advanced weapon than the Patriot and possesses far more range, undertaking high altitude interceptions and covering a wide area (est. 90km/ 54 mile range, maximum altitude 30 miles/ 50 km for Arrow 2) as a Theater Missile Defense (TMD) system. Unlike the USA’s THAAD, PAC-3, or SM-3 which all use “hit to kill” technology, Israel’s Arrow relies on a directed fragmentation warhead to destroy enemy missiles. It can work in conjunction with a number of systems, but its main Israeli partner is the Green Pine long-range, ground-based fire control radar. The system and its engagements are controlled by the mobile Citron Tree battle management center. Since the launchers are also mobile, and the radars are semi-mobile, the system is resistant to pre-emptive strikes if good discipline is maintained.
The exoatmospheric, 2-stage Arrow-3 will use pivoting optical sensors and its own upper-stage kick motor, instead of separate control rockets for final steering. The goal is a highly maneuverable missile that can reach more than double the height of existing Arrow-2 interceptors, using a lower-weight missile. This will also have the effect of extending the missile’s range.
In contrast, Israel’s Patriot PAC-2s are more of a local point defense system with a range of about 40km/ 24 miles. They were all Israel had during the 1991 Gulf War, but these days, Israel’s Patriot PAC-2 GEM+ missiles will only be launched if the Arrow missile fails, or the target is outside the Arrow’s protective umbrella. In that respect, the Arrow/Homa system will play a role similar to the longer-range naval SM-3 Standard missile that forms the high end of Japan’s planned ABM shield (and seems destined for Europe and other states in a land-based role), or the US Army’s THAAD.
Overall responsibility for Arrow lies with the U.S. Missile Defense Organization (MDA) in Washington, DC, and the Israel Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Israel. The program is executed by the Israel Missile Defense Organization in Tel Aviv, and the US Army Program Executive Office for Air and Missile Defense’s Arrow Product Office in Huntsville, AL. Key contractors include:
- Israel Aircraft Industries (prime contractor, Arrow missile, Green Pine fire control radar)
- Tadiran Electronics in Holon, Israel (Citron Tree battle management center)
- Boeing (about 35% of the Arrow missile, manages many US subcontractors)
- Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control in Orlando, FL (radar seeker)
- Raytheon in Santa Barbara, CA (Infrared seeker)
- Other American subcontractors include ATK in Iuka, MS and Clearfield, UT; Manes Machine, in Fort Collins, CO; Ceradyne Thermo-Materials, Inc., in Scottsdale, GA; and Sanmina SCI, in Huntsville, AL.
- Rafael Armament Development Authority, Haifa, Israel (Black Sparrow air-launched target; joint U.S./Israel effort).
Israel deployed the first battery of Arrow-1 missiles on March 14/2000, and has continued to upgrade the system. The summer of 2005 marked delivery of the first co-produced Boeing/IAI missiles. Israeli and US troops engaged in pre-training for the biennial Juniper Cobra exercise in 2007, and part of that process includes working out interoperability issues between the Patriot PAC-3 system (ad PAC-2 GEM+ that Israel deploys) and Arrow.
On July 29/04 Israel and the USA carried out joint experiment in the USA, in which the Arrow was launched against a real Scud missile. The experiment was a success, as the Arrow destroyed the Scud with a direct hit. In December 2005 the system was successfully deployed in a test against a replicated Shahab-3 missile. This feat was repeated on February 11/07.
Despite some international interest in the Arrow, the USA has blocked export initiatives so far. Although India purchased an Arrow-capable “Green Pine” radar from Elta in 2001, and has expressed interest in deploying its own battery of Arrow interceptor missiles, U.S. concerns regarding compliance with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR, an international agreement limiting the proliferation of ballistic missile technology) have effectively halted such plans for the time being. This did not stop India from using the Green Pine technology in its own November 2006 anti-missile test, using a modified Prithvi short-range ballistic missile with an exo-atmospheric kill vehicle and a hit to kill warhead.
Contracts & Key Events, 2004-Present
The section is still being updated.
Feb 22/11: An Arrow System successfully intercepts a ballistic target missile during a flight test conducted at Pt. Mugu Sea Range, CA. This test is part of the Arrow System Improvement Program (ASIP) and was conducted jointly by the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
The test represented a realistic scenario, and all the elements (Arrow, Green Pine radar, Citron Tree BMC) performed in their operational configurations, using new Block 4 software designed to improve their ability to discriminate targets. US MDA release | video || Defense News.
July 27/10: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense votes to fund Israel’s missile defense programs at $422.7 million for 2011, nearly $96 million above the original White House funding request. This represents a doubling of aid for missile defense from 2010, in the wake of an emerging consensus that the CIA’s 2007 estimate of Iran’s nuclear weapons program was wrong, and underestimated Iranian progress.
On the other hand, the structure of that funding is less good for the Arrow program. While the HASD added $58 million to the administration’s original FY 2011 Arrow-3 request, that provisional $108.8 million is actually less than FY 2010 funding of $157.4 million ($60M request + $97.4M Congress added). Likewise, the complementary medium range RAFAEL/Raytheon David’s Sling/Magic Wand dropped from $134.7 million in FY 2010 to $84.7 million requested in 2011. The net increase comes from a one-time, $205 million grant for the procurement of 10 RAFAEL Iron Dome batteries for defense against short-range missiles. HASD Chair statement [ PDF] | HASD Table [PDF] | AllGov | Jerusalem Post | Israel’s Globes business news.
July 26/10: Israel and the United States sign a deal to develop and field the Arrow 3 system. It will be capable of tracking and shooting down ballistic missiles at a higher altitudes, including fully exoatmospheric threats. US MDA | China’s Xinhua.
March 22/10: Defense News reports that U.S. and Israeli government and industrial partners will press ahead with Arrow 3 work through good faith understandings, until formalized government-to-government accords catch up. The goal is to deploy the new missile by 2014.
Production of the Arrow-2 is winding down, and final deliveries are planned by the end of 2010. Government and industrial partners have apparently been working together on Arrow-3 for nearly 2 years, moving the program through at least 4 of the US Missile Defense Agency’s required technology “knowledge points, and validate critical subsystems. A first fly-out is planned for 2011.
April 7/09: The Israeli Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency conduct a successful test of the Arrow ballistic missile defense system. The operationally realistic test was conducted in Israel, using an ASIP interceptor co-produced by Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The event marked the co-produced Arrow II’s 2nd intercept in 2 attempts, as well as its 3rd successful flight test. Boeing.
Jan 4/09: Israel’s Arutz Sheva news service reports that the Arrow missile defense system has been deployed near Ashkelon, in part because IAI has worked with American firms and developed an updated radar system named MC4. The new radar can also deal with smaller missiles, such as the Hamas government’s Kassam or Grad rockets being launched from Gaza. Using GPS and camera sensors, the MC4 system tracks the flight path, and within a minute of launch, it can determine both the launch site and projected landing site of the missile.
At the same time, pressure is building to add Northrop Grumman’s SkyGuard laser system to Israel’s defenses, a system whose technology is based on joint US-Israeli research:
“Supporters claim that the Skyguard laser based system is more suited to Israel’s needs than the rocket-based Rafael solution. Firstly, the laser can intercept short range missiles such as the Kassam rocket which hit their targets in less than 10 seconds. The rocket-based Rafael system can only hit medium-range rockets which reach their targets in more than 20 seconds. In addition, each laser round fired costs approximately $3,000. In contrast, defensive rockets for the Iron Dome system are estimated to cost over $100,000. Supporters also claim that the Skyguard system could be deployed in a short amount of time, whereas the completion of the Iron Dome rocket system is not foreseen in the near future.”
Sept 29/08: The USA has deployed an unspecified X-band radar system in Israel, manned by around 120 American personnel. Reports hint that the system may be similar to the radars deployed to Japan, or the AN/TPY-2 used as part of the THAAD system. The Guardian:
“One key feature of the system is that information from early-warning satellites – which greatly increases the radar’s ability to pinpoint launches – would remain in US hands. The satellite ground station would be in Europe and transmit data to Israel.
…The high-powered X-Band system, manufactured by Raytheon Company, would allow Israel’s Arrow II ballistic shield to engage an Iranian Shehab-3 missile about halfway through its 11-minute flight to Israel, six times sooner than Israel’s existing Green Pine radar can. The X-Band can track an object the size of a baseball from 2,900 miles away.”
Feb 14/08: IAI announces that The Israel Ministry of Defense (IMOD) / Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) has awarded a follow-on production contract to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)’s MLM Division for an undisclosed number of additional Arrow 2 Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile (ATBM) system interceptors. The interceptors will be assembled in Israel at IAI’s MLM Division, the Arrow prime contractor, with major portions coming from Boeing IDS, the U.S. prime contractor in Huntsville, AL., ATK in Luka, MS., and various other subcontractors across the U.S.
Aug 23/07: The Jerusalem Post publishes “IDF modifying Arrow deployment in the North.” Key quote:
“Following this past summer’s war and the recognition that the next war will involve Syrian and Iranian missile barrages, the Air Defense Forces decided to adopt a “wide deployment” for its Arrow missile batteries.”
Aug 6/07: Jane’s Defence Weekly: “Israel is leaning towards upgrading its own anti-ballistic missile Arrow Weapon System (AWS) rather than acquiring the US Theatre High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system. While no formal decision has yet been taken, Jane’s has learned that officials from the Israel Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation (BMDO) have informed the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) about potential complications with integrating THAAD into the country’s missile-defence alignment.”
March 26/07: An improved Arrow II missile, with modifications to its hardware and electronics under the Arrow System Improvement Program, is successfully test-fired this afternoon at Palmahim Air Force Base. The interceptor performed successfully according to design specifications, meeting all expectations and objectives. This is the 1st successful test of the improved configuration, and the 2nd test overall of a co-produced interceptor. Testing is managed by the Israeli Missile Defense Organization, in close cooperation with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
Test objectives were to collect flight engineering data for future test events, and to test the capabilities of the improved Arrow interceptor. This test marks the U.S./Israeli Arrow II program’s 14th success in 16 attempts. US MDA [PDF].
Feb 12/07: A successful ballistic missile intercept test by the Arrow missile defense system, conducted at night over the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the 1st test of a co-produced Arrow intercept missile fired from an improved launcher, using 2 Arrow batteries separated from each other. The target, called “Black Sparrow,” was launched from an F-15 fighter aircraft at which point the Fire Control Radar acquired the target and notified the Battle Management Center. A defense plan was issued and a mission command was sent to the Launch Control Center to fire the interceptor missile. This test marks the U.S./Israeli Arrow II program’s 13th success in 15 attempts. US MDA [PDF].
Spring 2005: The 1st co-produced Arrow 2 interceptor is delivered by IAI to the MoD. Source [PDF].
Feb 2/05: Israel Defense Forces carry out a successful test of the IAI/Boeing Arrow anti-missile system at a secret location in the center of the country. The Jerusalem Post reports that “an F-15 fighter jet flying over the Mediterranean dropped a Black Sparrow test missile specially designed to simulate an incoming Iranian Shihab 3 missile headed toward the Israeli shore.” The successful interception occurred at a higher altitude than previous efforts, and tested recent improvements made to the Arrow 2 system.
Israeli Air Force Patriot missile batteries also participated passively in the test, following the incoming missile with their radars. The Times of India notes that this was the 14th test of the system, which has included joint tests in the USA and advanced tests simulating advanced separating warheads. As evidenced by the Patriot batteries’ participation in this latest test, Israel is working to integrate all of its key assets and connections to US data into one national system, rather than relying on fragmented local control. Jerusalem Post | copy at United Jerusalem.
Aug 26/04: US Missile Defense Agency [PDF]:
“The Arrow anti-ballistic missile system was used today in a joint Israel/United States test exercise as part of the ongoing Arrow System Improvement Program (ASIP). The test was the second in a series conducted at the Point Mugu Sea Range in California. It was the thirteenth Arrow intercept test and the eighth test of the complete weapon system. The Arrow interceptor was launched toward the target but no intercept was achieved. Many of the test objectives were successfully completed, and the test data is being analyzed by test engineers to determine why an intercept did not occur.”
July 29/04: A modified Arrow System Improvement Program anti-ballistic missile successfully intercepts and destroys a ballistic missile target today, west of San Nicolas Island on the Pt. Mugu Sea Range in California. Point Mugu was used, in order to offer a realistic scenario that could not have been tested in Israel due to test-field safety restrictions.
The objective of the test was to demonstrate the Arrow system’s improved performance against a target that represents a threat to Israel. This was the 12th Arrow intercept test, and the 7th test of the complete Arrow system. US MDA [PDF]
April 1/04: Boeing announces a $78 million contract from Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to produce Arrow II interceptor components. The contract, effective immediately, runs through 2006 with options for additional production until Q2 2008. The total contract value could exceed $225 million if all options are exercised.
Boeing and IAI signed a teaming agreement in 2002 to co-produce the interceptor for the Arrow weapon system. The firm is responsible for production of the electronics section, the radome, motorcases for the booster and sustainer, and the canister that holds the interceptor in the missile launcher. Boeing production and program management will be conducted in Huntsville, AL. IAI, the prime contractor of the Arrow system, is responsible for system integration and final interceptor assembly in Israel.
Boeing will manage several major subcontracts to support the Arrow interceptor production including Alliant-Techsystems in Iuka, MS and Clearfield, UT; Manes Machine, in Fort Collins, CO; Ceradyne Thermo-Materials, Inc., in Scottsdale, GA; and Sanmina SCI, in Huntsville, AL.
Sept 14/2000: The Israel Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Army, conduct the 2nd successful intercept of a target ballistic missile by the Arrow Weapon System (AWS) in Israel. This was the 8th overall Arrow-2 flight test, but the 1st intercept for the against a new air-launched, in-bound target called the Black Sparrow.
The Arrow interceptor took off and flew in a nominal trajectory, acquired the Black Sparrow target, then locked on and homed on the designated threat. The warhead was fused at the proper range and the Arrow interceptor destroyed the target. The Green Pine fire control radar and Citron Tree battle management center participated fully in the test, performing battle planning, launch operations, and up link/down link message applications, as well as post intercept verifications. Both assets worked according to plan and fulfilled all test objectives. Analysis of all data is underway to evaluate and confirm results. US MDA [PDF]
Additional Readings & Sources
- Israeli MoD – Arrow Weapon System site.
- US MDA – Arrow gallery. Covers joint tests to 2004.
- Boeing – Arrow Interceptor
- Israeli-Weapons.com – Arrow. Profiles the entire Homa system, including Green Pine and Lemon Tree.
- Claremont Institute MissileThreat.com – Arrow Missile
- Claremont Institute MissileThreat.com – Shabab-3
- Wikipedia – Arrow Missile
- yNet News – Iran: We will build 20 new nuclear plants. also discusses the Arrow system test, and the larger efforts underway on the international front.
- BBC News (Feb 11/07) – Israeli missile test ‘successful’
- Jerusalem Post (Dec 2/05) – ‘Arrow’ Scud buster test a success
- India Times (Dec 2/04) – Israel successfully tests Arrow missile system
- Claremont Institute MissileThreat.com (Nov 17/04) – Aegis Test Successful: Marks First Attempt Against More Advanced Separating Target. This had been a key concern re: the system.
- Globes Online (Nov 7/05) – Jane’s: First IAI-Boeing “Arrow 2″ missile delivered to IAF
- US Army News Service (Nov 2/05) – Air defenders train with Israeli counterparts
- A Daily Briefing on Iran (Oct 29/04) – Why Haven’t We Seen This? Sometimes a picture really is worth 1,000 words, and it’s worth looking at this one from Ahmadinejad’s infamous speech… but the thousand words in documents like Hassan Abbassi’s “War Preparation Plan” can be at least as chilling.
- MEMRI Translation Special Dispatch Series (Oct 28/05) – Translated excerpts from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech
- UPI (Aug 27/04) – Arrow anti-ballistic missile test fails. It was tested against a separating warhead. The articles gives details re: what happened – but the most fascinating part to me was the difference between American and Israeli weapons testing philosophies.
- JINSA (Aug 4/04) – First U.S. Test of Arrow Missile Defense System Goes ‘Beautifully’. Adds useful background re: the overall US-Israeli program.
- Israeli IDF (Aug 2/04) – The ‘Arrow’ System Test- A Strategic Accomplishment