With eye on Iran, Israel tests missile defence system

Officials have expressed concerns about Tehran’s development of long-range weapons

Iron Dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel, as seen from the city of Ashkelon, Israel, November 13, 2019. REUTERS/ Amir Cohen
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Israel’s Defence Ministry on Tuesday said it conducted successful live-fire drills with its multi-range missile-defence system, providing protection against threats posed by Iran and its proxies along the northern and southern borders.

Defence officials said it was the first time they had conducted an integrated test bringing together the components of the country’s missile defence.

They are the “Arrow,” which intercepts long-range missiles, “David’s Sling,” meant to shoot down medium-range missiles, and the “Iron Dome", which has been used for years to defend against rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

Moshe Patel, head of Israel’s Middle Defence Organisation, said the drill “demonstrated a multi-layered approach to dealing with threats” that incorporates all three systems.

Israel tests multi-range missile defence system

Israel tests multi-range missile defence system

“Using this approach, a variety of threats may be identified and intercepted via full co-ordination and interoperability between the systems,” Mr Patel said.

Israel faces a range of rocket and missile threats from Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza, the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah in neighbouring Lebanon, and Iran.

Officials have expressed concerns about Iran’s development of long-range weapons and what they say are Hezbollah attempts to import or develop guided missiles capable of striking almost anywhere in Israel with great precision.

Brig Gen Ran Kochav, head of the Israeli Air Force’s air defence programme, said the drill simulated a series of threats and involved complex human and computerised decision making.

Brig Kochav said it was a major accomplishment to intercept a cruise missile, which are tricky targets because of their speed, altitude and manoeuvrability.

“What was special with this test is that it was a live drill dealing with a concrete scenario," he said.

"You can understand the geopolitical situation in the Middle East has changed.

“It advances us operationally and technologically, and allows us to absorb these advanced systems into the air force, and carry out evaluation and training and knowledge so that we can get better.”

Israel has developed the missile defences in conjunction with the US. Tuesday’s drill was conducted with the US Missile Defence Agency, officials said.

The trial was conducted over the Mediterranean Sea and tested the systems’ ability to intercept aerial targets from drones to larger and longer-range ballistic missiles.

Pini Yungman, head of the air and missile defence division at state-owned Israeli defence contractor Rafael, called the results “magnificent”.

“All the targets were destroyed in all the tests, and no threat, no target remained in the air after the interception,” Mr Yungman said.