Israel to test latest high-altitude missile interceptor: report

Jerusalem, Dec 5 (Xinhua-ANI): The Israeli Defense Ministry is set to “soon” test the Arrow III high-altitude missile interceptor, a ministry source said Wednesday.

Arrow III is expected to be able to hit non-conventional, nuclear weapon-tipped rockets, the official told the Haaretz daily.

“There are all sorts of tests going on all the time,” the source told Xinhua, adding that the missile project, which is meant to hit incoming Iranian rockets while they are in the stratosphere far above Israel, was “a work in progress.”

When officials divulge such firing plans, it often means the test will take place within several days.

The Arrow III is the high-altitude end of a triad of Israel’s multi-tier active air defenses: Iron Dome against close-in threats up to 70 km, like rockets from Gaza; and David’s Sling, which is designed to intercept short and mid-range projectiles up to 250 km away, and which successfully shot down an advanced missile in a live-fire trial two weeks ago.

A leading Israeli missile defense expert recently told Xinhua that the David’s Sling constituted a breakthrough in Israel’s race to build a shield against growing threats of rocket and missile attacks.

A “perfect interception” was achieved during the trial in Israel’s Negev desert, said a senior official in the ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure. Representatives of the American Missile Defense Agency, which is underwriting most of the system’s development, attended the trial.

“It was the first in which all of the system’s components worked in tandem to intercept a live missile. It was a significant milestone from which it’s possible to begin the countdown to operational deployment,” Uzi Rubin, the founder and first director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO), told Xinhua.

Rubin estimated that Israeli cities might be hit by more than 13,000 missiles and rockets in a future war waged on multiple fronts.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, one of Israel’s largest defense contractors, and the U.S. missile giant Raytheon are jointly developing David’s Sling, also known as Magic Wand.

“It’s shot to the big skies, where it has to home in and directly strike its target, and you can’t miss by a single inch,” Rubin said. “It’s not finding a needle in a haystack. Here, it’s about finding an atom in a haystack.”

David’s Sling is scheduled to become operational in 2014, and Arrow III in 2015-16. (Xinhua-ANI)