The Arrow-3 Interceptor missile.
- Israel has confirmed the first operational use of its Arrow-3 system to intercept an enemy missile.
- Initially deployed in 2017, Arrow-3 is the top layer of Israel's sophisticated air-defense network.
- Arrow works with the Iron Dome and David's Sling, as well as US-made Patriot batteries, to defend Israel's skies.
Israel has confirmed the first operational use of its Arrow-3 system to stop an inbound missile as the country's adversaries test the layers of its sophisticated air-defense network.
Houthi militants, an Iran-backed group in Yemen, claimed on Thursday that they fired a salvo of ballistic missiles at Israel, which said on Telegram that it was able to counter the attack. It said one projectile heading toward its territory was identified and intercepted above the Red Sea by the Arrow system.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) later announced that it used the Arrow-3 system to "effectively" take down the threat, marking the first operational intercept for the weapon since it was initially deployed in 2017.
Arrow-3 is the product of a joint development effort with the US and is a follow-on and complementary system to the Arrow-2 unit, which was first deployed in 2000. Arrow-2 has already been used twice since the Israel-Hamas war began over a month ago and is credited with intercepting a Houthi ballistic missile and a long-range rocket fired from the Gaza Strip — marking the older system's first and second confirmed operational intercepts.
Both of the Arrow systems use two-stage solid-fueled interceptors to engage short- and medium-range ballistic missiles and consist of a launcher, radar, and battle management system. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank, Arrow-2 is designed to intercept targets in the upper atmosphere while Arrow-3 can eliminate threats in space.
Together, they make up the very upper echelon of Israel's multi-layered air-defense network, which works to protect Israel's nearly 9,000 square miles of territory from missiles, rockets, artillery, and drones.
An "Arrow 3" ballistic missile interceptor is seen during its test launch near Ashdod December 10, 2015.
"Arrow-3 serves as the top layer of Israel's defense array," Israel's defense ministry says in a fact sheet on the system, touting the interceptor as a "world-class missile" that works with Arrow-2 to "significantly" enhance the country's defense capacity. "The Arrow-3 system's capabilities enable longer range, higher altitude (exo-atmospheric), and more precise ballistic missile engagements," it adds.
Below the Arrow systems is David's Sling, the middle layer, which can engage medium- to long-range rockets and missiles at up to 185 miles.
Below that is the Iron Dome, the most well-known of the air-defense system and the one that's seen the most action so far. It is designed to intercept short-range artillery fire and rockets. Israel also operates the MIM-104 Patriot missile defense battery, a prized US-made surface-to-air missile system that can neutralize everything from ballistic and cruise missiles to drones and loitering munitions.
With Hezbollah militants firing from Lebanon in the north, Houthi militants firing from Yemen in the south, and Hamas militants firing from Gaza in the west, missiles and rockets coming from multiple directions are now testing all the layers of Israel's air-defense network. The IDF said around 9,500 projectiles have been launched at Israel since October 7. Many have failed to reach their intended targets, some 2,000 of them have been intercepted, and some have made it through.
"For the first time, all the aerial defense systems are working simultaneously," the IDF said on Thursday. "All of these provide protection in every layer of aerial defense and enable optimal protection of the Israeli home front."
After the first operational use of Arrow-2 in late October, Israeli forces relocated several ships that are capable of launching missiles to the Red Sea in a bid to bolster its defenses amid increasing threats from the Yemen-based Houthis. It's not immediately clear if the military has taken any new defensive measures in the wake of Thursday's Arrow-3 interception.
Meanwhile, US officials said the Iran-backed group shot down an American MQ-9 Reaper drone off the coast of Yemen on Wednesday, the second time in recent years that the militant group has done so. US forces previously intercepted missiles and drones believed to be headed toward Israel.
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