According to a defense establishment source, the experiment was anticipatory of a "significant future threat in the Middle East, which might be directed at Israel."
The test, the 18th of its kind, began on Tuesday morning at 8:30 am (Israel Standard Time) off the coast of California. During the previous test, which took place in July 2009, a technical malfunction prevented the interceptive missile from being launched. The defense establishment wanted to repeat the experiment that same summer, but could not because of difficulties presented by US authorities.
'Test was significant landmark'
Defense Minister Ehud Barak called Tuesday's drill a "significant landmark in the security establishment's effort to develop an active and multilayered defense system.
"It joins the success of the Iron Dome last week," he added. "The citizens of the State of Israel can be proud of the fact that Israel is the leading nation in the world in the field of multilayered missile defense."
Aryeh Herzog, director of the Defense Ministry's Homa project, which deals with the State's missile defense, said that the system worked well during the experiment.
"The target was launched and the radar followed it," he said. "Afterwards, the interceptive missile was launched. It hit the target and brought to its total destruction. This successful experiment is a result of a very long period of hard work on the part of all parties involved. It was an important experiment for the State of Israel, and its abilities to defend itself from ballistic missiles."
Sources in the defense establishment added that the interceptive missile was airborne for a minute and a half before colliding with the target missile.
Protection against Iranian threatDefense officials noted that the success of the test demonstrates the improvement in Arrow 2's weapons system, which is being developed in preparation for the transition to an upgraded Arrow 3 system.
"It has a significant contribution to defense against the threats that exist against Israel, both from the north and the east, including the Iranian threat," one official said.
Arrow 2 was designed to protect Israel from Iran's Shihab-3 and Sijil missiles, as well as Syria's Scud-D missiles.
"The experiment was conducted against a target that wasn't tested before," the defense official said. "The target was prepared especially for the experiment, in order to examine the system's capacity. We added certain changes to the detection and interception abilities."
Arrow 2 is part of the multilayered missile defense system that includes Iron Dome, which is expected to be operational within weeks, Magic Wand, which has entered the flight testing stage of development, and Patriot.
Israeli Air Defense Network Commander Brigadier-General Doron Gavish said recently that Arrow 3 will be able to provide maximal protection against threats relevant to the region within a few years. The system is expected to be operational in 2014.
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