"The initial test of ‘Arrow 3’ will be held this year", Project Manager Inbal Kreiss told IsraelDefense, in reference to advanced interceptor systems being developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), in a joint project with the United States. The goal of the test is mostly classified, Kreiss admits, but its main purpose is to appraise the special abilities programmed to the interceptor.
"Arrow 3", also known as "Super Arrow", is an upper tier interceptor in Israel’s multilayer defense concept. Below it are "Arrow 2", "David’s Sling", and "Iron Dome". "Arrow 3" is designed to intercept ballistic missiles carrying unconventional warheads in the exoatmosphere. The new interceptor is smaller than "Arrow 2", and is based on cutting-edge principles and technological breakthroughs already patented by IAI.
The technological idea at the core of the new interceptor is the two-stage engine: the first engine lifts the missile into the exoatmosphere, separates, and the missile remains with the second engine – the maneuvering missile. The interceptor’s uniqueness lies in its light weight and absence of dynamite. Instead, it employs a sophisticated, electro-optical homing warhead that "sees" a very wide spectrum while in flight, and allows for very high maneuverability that gives the missile a high degree of freedom for defensive purposes.
Thus, the time needed for interception is shortened – a vital factor in the defense concept, especially in the event of a missile barrage. "Arrow 3" is constantly "updated" in flight on the incoming target, and can be diverted from target to target even if the targets are distant from one another. Also, the homing head distinguishes between the enemy missile and deception bodies breaking away from it.
The "hit-to-kill" intercept is made by a frontal collision between the interceptor and target missile. The collision in space totally disintegrates the target.
Another advantage: "Arrow 3" can be launched from advanced missile boats. A recent first-of-its-kind lab test was undertaken to check how active multi-layer steering systems operate synchronously – including those of "Arrow 3".
IAI marks a decade since the operational deployment of the Arrow system ("Arrow 1"). "Arrow 3" is the natural outgrowth of the system’s ongoing improvement and is expected to become operational in five years.
"We’re operating on the level of risk management, doing things that have never been done in other systems, really pushing the technology to the edge", says kreiss. Inbal Kreiss is silent on the cost of the "Arrow 3" project due to the sensitivity of IAI’s relations with the United States, its project partner.
IsraelDefense has leaned from American sources that the system’s price-tag comes to $700-800 million, a figure published three years ago. Israel has asked the United States to include in its annual budget to the Arrow project - $140 million – the development of "Arrow 3" and arming Israel with the system. The United States, IsraelDefense was informed, assumes approximately 80% of the development and production costs for the anti-ballistic missile, while Israel outlays the rest. When the system becomes operational, its cost will be $2-3 million dollars per unit.
"Arrow 3" (Photo: IAI)