Israel and the United States have signed an agreement to make the Arrow II ballistic shield capable of shooting down missiles at a higher altitude, the Israeli Defense Ministry said today. The Arrow III wiallow Israel “to deal with the threat of ballistic missiles with long range” and will give it “the ability to shoot down weapons of mass destruction outside the atmosphere”, the ministry said in a statement.Israel, which describes its Arrow system as a defense against Iran, says the upgraded version will cap off its multi-tier air defenses.
The Arrow is jointly produced by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and the American firm Boeing Co. and has absorbed close to e1 billion in direct U.S. funds since its 1988 inception.
Israel’s defense forces have been planning to eventually operate three anti-missile systems: Iron Dome to tackle rockets with a shorter range of up to 60 kilometers; David’s Sling – known also as Magic Wand – which has a range of hundreds of kilometers; while the Arrow 3 is designed to shoot down missiles outside the earth’s atmosphere.
All three will be operated by anti-aircraft units of the IAF, which has been working to coordinate the functioning of its layer-cake air defenses.
Last year, the air force said that the Arrow III would take more than four years to complete and that would depend on what resources were made available for the project.
Two weeks ago U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew J. Shapiro said the United States intended to expand its military aid to Israel in the hopes that such aid would allow Israel to reach tough decisions in its peace talks with the Palestinians.
Speaking at the Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington D.C., the assistant secretary spoke of the administration’s intention to enhance the annual security aid it provides Israel, saying that in “2010, the administration requested [from Congress] $2.775 billion in security assistance funding specifically for Israel, the largest such request in U.S. history.”
Specifically mentioning the in-development Arrow missile defense system, Shapiro had said that “given the threat Israel faces from short- and medium-range missiles, Israeli air and missile defense systems are an area of particular focus, including the Arrow Weapon System to counter long-range ballistic missile threats and David’s Sling to defend against short-range ballistic missiles.”
“For our part, we are working with Israel to upgrade its Patriot Air and Missile Defense System, which was first deployed during the Gulf War, and have installed advanced radar systems to provide Israel early warning of incoming missiles,” Shapiro added.
A day before that, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that the United States would continue to maintain Israel’s military advantage as well as protect it in the diplomatic arena, adding that the American commitment to Israel’s security was “not negotiable.”