The Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) have commenced the development of the Arrow-4 system. The new missile is a next step evolution of the existing Arrow-2 and -3 which are currently in service and is intended to replace the older -2 models in service in the next decade.
Designed to shoot down incoming missiles and rockets, the Arrow Weapon System is a major element of Israel’s multi-layered missile defenses. Built by IAI, the Arrow-2 has been operational since 2000.
This was supplemented in 2017 when the Arrow-3 entered service. This missile operates at greater speeds and range, as well as to greater altitudes than Arrow-2. This makes it capable of intercepting ballistic missiles during the space-flight portion of their trajectory. Speaking of the announcement to develop the enhanced interceptor Moshe Patel, the head of the IMDO, said that:
“We are starting the development of the Arrow-4 system at a symbolic time – 30 years after the Gulf War, which led to the establishment of the IMDO and the joint missile defense program with our American partners. Over the last three decades, we have developed one of the most advanced missile defense arrays in the world… Arrow-4 will have unprecedented flight and interception capabilities, ensuring the security of the State of Israel.”
Though the United States does not operate the Arrow, most of the funding originates from the US defense budget and American contractors build substantial parts of the system. The importance that the U.S. attaches to securing Israel from missile attack was voiced by Vice Adm. John Hill, Director of the MDA:
“Arrow-4 is a cooperative program between the MDA and IMDO that illustrates U.S. commitment to assisting the government of Israel in upgrading its national missile defense capability to defend the State of Israel from emerging threats.”
Over the past few years, the United States has been working intensively with the Israelis to further develop and improve both interceptor models currently in service, with test launches also taking place in Alaska.
Though the US has no stated intention to acquire Arrow’s, the experience that the various contractors are acquiring through working alongside the IMDO in developing and fielding the Arrow-series will no doubt assist in the United States intentions to field their own interceptors in the near future.