Despite attempts by the operators of the Arrow missile defense system in Israel to portray Wednesday night’s aborted test as “a partial success,” in reality it was nothing less than a resounding failure. The fact that the interceptor missile failed to launch in the direction of the target is damning proof that the test failed.
Overall, the goal of the test is not to assess various data systems that could be checked without launching the missile, but to launch the interceptor missile at the oncoming target. In this case, the target was a simulator missile of the Iranian Shihab, whose range exceeds 1,000 kilometers, more than enough to reach Israel.
The Defense Ministry’s well-oiled public relations machine has for years propagated the notion that the Arrow system is the best in the world, and that it is capable of answering long-range missile threats against Israel.
Yet, in practice, it turns out that the threats are growing more ominous, and, in this game of cat and mouse, a defense system has no chance to get up to speed with missiles whose range and efficacy are increasing at a fast pace.
Originally, the Arrow was designed to intercept Scud missiles with a range of 300-400 kilometers. After it became clear that the Iranians – with aid from North Korea and China – are increasing the range of missiles, Israel was forced to regroup and cope with the new reality. As a result, it developed the Arrow 2 system.
Now, when Iran holds in its arsenal the Shihab 3 missile which can reach any target in Israel, a new solution must be found. This was in essence the goal of the unsuccessful test in California. In addition, Iran is about to incorporate a missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers into its arsenal. Not coincidentally, even though there has been little media attention on the subject, Israel is mulling the purchase of the U.S.-made THAAD missile defense, which is still in the development phase.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency said that the test involved a dummy missile that was fired from a C-17 aircraft, which was detected by the Arrow’s radar. The data was then transferred to the “battle management control center” on the ground. Yet, due to the fact that “not all test conditions to launch the Arrow Interceptor were met,” it was decided to abort.
This mishap will be thoroughly examined in Iran. There is no doubt that Tehran’s director of its missile program will be rubbing his hands with satisfaction. Beyond the technical glitch, this failure is also a psychological blow for Israel and its partner in the project, the U.S.