The Arrow 3 system is the outermost layer of Israel's multifaceted active defense concept, which consists of a number of technological solutions to various missile threats. These solutions include the Iron Dome (short-range interception), David's Sling (mid-range interception), Arrow 2 (interception in the upper atmosphere) and Arrow 3 (interception in space), all of which use interceptor missiles to thwart incoming threats.
The Arrow 3 is fundamentally different from what is already operational today. The interceptor missile is smaller and more agile. It flies faster and higher, reaching space. The price of the interceptor missile is expected to be cheaper than that of current interceptor missiles.
The technological achievement represented by the Arrow 3 is most significant and it is appreciated in the active defense world. From the start, the Arrow 3 was developed in partnership with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, with the cooperation of the American defense industry. This strategic partnership with the U.S. is an expression of the high esteem the U.S. has for the Israeli defense industry and it is evidence of the close and special ties between the two countries.
The operational significance of the Arrow 3, once its development is complete, is clear: Israel will be better able to defend itself, at higher altitudes and further away from its borders. Because of the great speed and high altitude involved in the interception, it will be possible to launch additional interceptor missiles if the first one misses its target. The Arrow 3 will significantly increase Israel's ability to defend itself against the ballistic missiles of hostile countries.
Moreover, recent years have seen the emergence of long-range ballistic missile threats in places like North Korea, which is on the verge of having the capability to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile. The possibility of Iran acquiring such missiles is not imaginary, making it necessary to engage in an ongoing technological race. This is a race between the attacker and the defender, requiring an assessment of future missile developments, as well as reliable and efficient responses to them.
Many people err by focusing on the cost of interceptor missiles. This issue should be taken off the agenda, given the cost of the damage that could be caused by incoming missiles. It is clear what the cost of a missile strike on an electric power station — or, God forbid, an nonconventional warhead exploding in the Tel Aviv area — would be.
On one side, Israel's new defensive system is an insurance policy for the day war breaks out. On the other, it also radiates power.
Tal Inbar is the head of the Space Research Center at the Fisher Institute for Air & Space Strategic Studies.