Israel has successfully conducted the first stage of tests on a space-based missile defense system which uses ‘Kamikaze’ suicide satellites to blow up long range missiles at high altitude.
The new Arrow III defense system, an upgrade of previous Israeli Arrow interceptor systems, was developed in cooperation with the United States of America. It could be used to intercept long range missiles of the kind owned by Iran and Syria, is offers the ability to intercept nuclear or chemical warheads without dangerous fallout.
Israel is working to create a comprehensive three level missile defense system. The short range component of this system is called the ‘Iron Dome’ – is has been well-tested by Qassam rockets fired by Hezbollah and Palestinian militants, and is generally considered to be the most successful and effective missile defense system in operation anywhere in the world. A mid-range system which has been named ‘David’s Sling’ is still in development.
Arrow III is the long range component of the system, and aims to destroy non-conventional warheads at high altitude. This would allow Israel to intercept nuclear warheads in space, allowing any fallout to dissipate without posing a risk to the public. It does this by using ‘Kamikaze’ satellites which target and then crash into the missiles. If the Arrow III system failed to intercept a missile, it could still be intercepted further along its course by the other two systems.
“The test examined for the first time the capabilities and the performance of the new Arrow III, considered to be the most innovative and revolutionary interceptor in the world,” said the Israeli Defense Ministry, adding that the test was “100% successful”. The test was conducted from a site on Israel’s Mediterranean coastline, and lasted for six and a half minutes.
“The success of the test is an important milestone in the operational capabilities of the state of Israel to be able to defend itself against threats in the region,” said the Defense Ministry.
Son of Star Wars
In many ways the Arrow III system is a successor to America’s ambitious but aborted plans to create a space-based ‘Star Wars‘ defense system. It has been developed by US firm Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries, and has received the full backing and support of both governments.
Boeing has previously stated that they believe there could be a global market for the Arrow III system.
“As we prove out that technology, and show that it’s not only affordable but effective, we think there will be additional global market opportunities for that capability,” said Dennis Muilenburg, chief executive of Boeing’s defense, space and security arm, speaking to Reuters last year.
India, Singapore and South Korea have been named as potential buyers for the system.