From Iron Dome to Arrow-3

When the war of words between Israel and the US on one side and Iran on the other reaches a climax that has the potential to erupt within minutes to real war, Israel is bolstering its capability to intercept ballistic missiles and rockets.

19th Sep 2012

 Missile defence

 From Iron Dome to Arrow-3


When the war of words between Israel and the US on one side and Iran on the other reaches a climax that has the potential to erupt within minutes to real war, Israel is bolstering its capability to intercept ballistic missiles and rockets.
The Iranian Air Force is not considered to be a threat to Israel. But Teheran embarked many years ago on a vast effort to develop several types of ballistic missiles that can easily reach Israel. The author still remembers the sound of a warhead attached to an Iraqi Scud missile that exploded not far from his residence during the first Iraqi war in 1990. What is expected now if Iran is attacked is a barrage of missiles with even larger warheads.
Israel is preparing itself for this eventuality. Soon a third Arrow missile battery will be deployed by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in the centre of the country to increase the overall capability based until now on two operational batteries of Arrow -2 missiles. The three batteries will be interconnected to one command center which will decide what battery - or rather which launcher - will achieve the best results after an incoming missile is detected by the system’s "Green Pine” long range phased array radar.
DRA had the opportunity to visited one of the batteries and while the activities are routine, the feeling is of a coiled spring that is about to be released in a split second. The third battery will include all the improvements that have been progressively introduced in recent years. These are designed to improve the detection, priorization and intercept capabilities of the system.
In the meantime, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is preparing the first fly out test of the Arrow-3, a totally different interceptor that is designed for kinetic kills of ballistic missiles armed with unconventional warheads.
The Arrow-2 and -3 will be the upper layer of a system that is designed to defend Israel from all rockets and missiles. The Rafael "Iron Dome" is already intercepting short-range rockets such as those often fired from Gaza and the West Bank. One layer above will be the Rafael -Raytheon "David Sling" designed to intercept longer-range rockets and cruise missiles.
But one can assume with great certainty that Israel, will use additional methods of interception - including some active operations to suppress the capability of the enemy to launch.
To understand the three-tier solution it is necessary to comprehend the full span of the threat. This will begin with the basic homemade Kassam rockets used by the Hamas in the Gaza strip. These simple rockets have caused damage and killed people in Southern Israel in the many rounds of fighting in that area. But now Hamas has beefed up its capabilities with shipments of 122 mm "Grad" rockets that have reached the area through the hundreds of tunnels that were dug under the Gaza – Egypt border line.
Turning to the north, the rocket arsenal of the Hizbulah in Lebanon is bigger. These range from the 122mm "Grad" through “Fatah 110” up to “Zilzal” rockets – the latter having a diameter of 600mm and a massive 400kg warhead.
The third arsenal on the Israeli border is the rockets and Scud B/C/D missiles that are part of the Syrian army's arsenal. According to Israeli intelligence some of these missiles are fitted with chemical warheads.
But the major threat is from Iran. This country has a big arsenal of long-range missiles. While some reports in the Iranian press about new versions of existing missiles are considered false, nevertheless the experts say that this country has the ability to launch a massive ballistic missile attack on Israel.


The Shihab-3 was the first intermediate range ballistic missile that was built by Iran's military. Its first version has a range of 1300 km. Soon after Iran came with a new model called Shihab 3B, which has a range of 2000 km.
Another ballistic missile in the Iranian arsenal is the Ghadr-110: a medium-range ballistic missile designed and developed domestically. The missile has a range of 1,800 to 2,000 km. It has a liquid-fuel first stage and a solid-fuel second stage, accounting for its substantial range. It has a higher maneuverability than the Shihab-3 and a set-up time of 30 minutes, which is considerably shorter than that of the Shihab-3.
In late 2007, the Iranian Defence Ministry announced that the local missile industry has developed a new missile, also with a range of 2000 km. This one was dubbed the Ashura. Some experts say that this missile represents a major breakthrough in Iranian missile technology. It is the first two-stage missile using solid fueled rocket motors instead of the existing liquid fueled technology used on the Shihab.
This new two-stage solid-fuel missile has a range of nearly 2,500 km was tested for the first time on 12 November 2008. An improved version, the Sajil-2, was tested on 20 May 2009. Improvements include a better navigation system, better targeting system, more payload, longer range, faster lift-off, longer storage time, quicker launch and lower detection possibilities.
Yet another long range ballistic missile is designated the Sajil . The Iranians claim that it has a 2500 km range.
Israeli experts say that the Iranians sometimes use different names for the same missile, but they agree that with foreign help mostly from North Korea, the Iranians have " made a big leap forward"
So the three tiered Israeli defense system – or four tiered if strikes on launch sites are included - will have to cope with multiple threats.
To deal with this, four “Iron Dome" batteries are already operational. The aim is to find the budget for another six. Earlier this year the US granted Israel $205 million for another four batteries, so the goal is on the way to being achieved.
Rafael developed the “Iron Dome” in less than three years. It is designed to cope with rockets that have a 40 km range. By the end of the year "Iron Dome" will be upgraded with a new millimetric radar developed by Elta, which is an Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) subsidiary.
Another local company Rafael has teamed with US giant Raytheon and they are developing the "David Sling" interceptor that is designed to handle longer range rockets and "other aerial threats". The "Stunner" missile of the "David Sling" system will be very agile with a special motor that will be ignited three times during the flight to the target.
But the Arrow-3 is without any doubt the most advanced interceptor being developed by Israel. The name is misleading, as this interceptor is totally different from the operational Arrow-2.
While the Arrow-2 has a proximity fuse that detonates the warhead, the Arrow-3 is designed a "hit to kill" interceptor. A kill vehicle is ejected from the main missile and maneuvers itself until it achieves a kinetic kill of the incoming enemy missile. In addition the Arrow-3 will make intercepts outside the atmosphere. It will be much lighter then the Arrow -2 and will have super maneuverability. The "End Game" - when the kill vehicle will go for the final impact - will not be dependant of any sensors on the ground.
Sources say that the Arrow-3 will be operational in 2013. As with all the other tiers, after it is deployed a never-ending upgrade process will begin.
Uzi Rubin, who served as the first Director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization in the Israeli Ministry of Defense, says that the Arrow-3 with its very high exo-atmospheric interception altitudes, coupled with the improved detection, discrimination and fire control, is designed to permit observed fire ("Shoot – look – shoot" ) - thus providing at least two and possibly three chances to kill each incoming missile. The new architecture will thus assure a very high probability of kill against any suspected nuclear missile, as well as being capable of handling larger salvoes of longer range ballistic missiles equipped with countermeasures.
An American TPY-2 X Band radar deployed permanently in southern Israel will perform the detection, according to Rubin. This will be supplemented by an advanced version of the "Green Pine" detection and fire control radar that is part of the Arrow-3 system.
Rubin said that Israel is building a veritable multi-faceted homeland missile shield against almost every kind of ballistic threat, with the added capability against cruise missiles thrown in. "Apart from the indigenous Merkava tank, there is no other single domestic program in the Israeli defense industry that equals the overall level of this effort ", he said.
He emphasized that this did not come about by any particular foresight and neither is it executed according to some overall master plan, but by the force of circumstances and has occurred piecemeal. " As a rule, each step was accompanied by an acrimonious quarrel between the military and political echelons in Israel’s defense establishment – except perhaps the enhanced Arrow program that sprouted under the terrifying shadow of Iran’s prospective nuclearization.”







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