Israel makes history with new anti-missile system

Special to World
15th March 2000

TEL AVIV -- Israel, concerned by progress in Arab and Iranian missile programs, has dedicated one of the world's first operational anti-missile defense system.

At a ceremony Tuesday afternoon at an air force facility south of Tel Aviv, speakers dedicated the Arrow system and declared that in an emergency it could achieve operational status within days. The first Arrow-2 battery is one of three that will be deployed around Israel for protection against missile threats.

Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd., Lod, is the chief contractor of the Arrow-2 missile. Officials said the state-owned company has launched the manufacture of missile interceptors.

Officials said the first battery is regarded as having emergency deployment capability. They said the Arrow will continue to undergo improvement and several tests are scheduled over the next year.

The Arrow system will also feature the Green Pine radar manufactured by IAI's Elta Electronic Industries subsidiary. The radar is meant to provide early-warning for missile launches and track enemy missiles headed for the Jewish state.

The Arrow program -- five years behind schedule -- has cost $2 billion. Some 60 percent of the funding has been contributed by the United States.

Israel wants to reduce the cost of deployment and further development by selling the anti-missile system to other countries. Several countries, including Britain, Turkey, Japan, and India, have expressed interest. IAI has been negotiating with three U.S. companies -- Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon -- for a marketing partnership for the Arrow. IAI has insisted that the Arrow system be produced in Israel.

The Arrow's Citron battle management system, developed by Tadiran Electronics Systems, is responsible for the launches of the missile interceptors. The system can respond to 14 enemy missiles simultaneously.

But Israeli defense officials said Israel will develop other systems to counter enemy missiles. One proposal is for the United States to supply the Tomahawk cruise missile. U.S. officials said the Israeli request could be approved as part of an Israeli-Syrian peace treaty.

"It [Arrow] doesn't have the ability to totally seal it," Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Eitan Ben Eliahu said. "But it can be a significant cog in the defense alongside an offense. But it takes nothing away from the need for an offensive action."

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