Lieutenant-General Henry Obering III, heading the US Missile Defense Agency, (MDA) held talks with senior Israeli defense officials early August 2008. Following the meetings, officials in Jerusalem are confident that MDA will not opbject a forthcoming decision by the US Congress, to continue financial assistance for the development of the advanced version of Israel’s Arrow anti-ballistic missile defense system.Previeous recommendations promoted by US industries urged MDA to favor US made alternatives, including a ground based SM-3 anti-ballistic missile interceptor and the THAADS missile.
The Arrow-3 system, the next generation of the currently deployed Arrow missile defense system, is slated to help Israel intercept ballistic missiles in a much wider range than currently covered by Arrow-2 missiles. The Arrow-3 will be supported by the new ‘Great Pine’ radar, an evolution of the ‘Green-Pine’ system. The missile, currently in early development at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) should be able to intercept incoming ballistic missiles at exoatmospheric altitudes at distances surpassing 100km.
The need for the Arrow-3 missile has become critical in light of the progress made in the Iranian ballistic missile and especially it’s nuclear program. According to official estimates, a first Arrow-3 battery could become operational within three years.
The Arrow-3 program cost is estimated at some $700-800 million over three years. Israel has included the program in its five-year plan and has asked the United States to continue its $140 million annual support for the Arrow program to fund the new phase. Washington supports 80% of Israel’s anti-ballistic missile system’s development and production. The Arrow missiles are currently produced by Boeing and IAI.
Until Arrow-3 is fielded, Israel plans to deploy two additional Arrow-2 batteries to defend the country’s southern region, also covering sensitive sites such as the Dimona nuclear complex. Current Arrow sites are located in north east and south of the Tel-Aviv metropolitan area, covering the country’s largest population centers of Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa.