Discover the Best of the Arrow ABM System of Israel

The “Arrow Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM)” System is a sophisticated missile defence system developed by the MALAM division of the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and American Boeing to intercept and destroy incoming ballistic missiles. Discover the Best of the Arrow ABM System of Israel, which forms the long-range layer of Israel’s multi-tiered missile defence system, along with David’s Sling for medium-to-long range and Iron Dome and Iron Beam for short ranges. Designed to counteract a variety of threats, the Arrow system utilizes advanced radar, sensors, and interceptor missiles.

The system has multiple components, including the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 interceptors. The Arrow 2 is designed for engaging ballistic missiles in the atmosphere, while the Arrow 3 can intercept missiles outside Earth. With a multi-layered approach, the Arrow ABM System enhances Israel’s defence capabilities against potential missile attacks, providing a critical shield for both military assets and civilian populations. This system underscores Israel’s commitment to maintaining national security in the face of evolving regional threats.

Photo Credit: IAI / Arrow 3 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Launch
Photo Credit: IAI / Arrow 3 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Launch with PhotoVibrance effects

The production and deployment of the Arrow 2 missile commenced after the development and testing of the Arrow 1 technology demonstration. As of 2023 and beyond, the Arrow is widely recognized as one of the most sophisticated missile defence systems available.

It holds the distinction of being the first missile defence system designed specifically for the interception and destruction of ballistic missiles. Operated by the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) Protective Sword unit under the Air Defense Command, the first Arrow battery achieved full operational status in October 2000. The Air Defense Command remains the sole user of the entire Arrow system, despite the export of several of its components.

Israel and the United States have reached an agreement in principle to sell Germany the Arrow-3 system, according to an article published in the daily “The Jerusalem Post” on April 5, 2022. The German Bundestag authorised the German Air Force’s acquisition of the Arrow 3 system in June 2023. Delivery is anticipated in late 2025.

As per the Israeli Space Agency, Arrow 3 has the potential to function as an anti-satellite weapon, positioning Israel among the select nations with the capability to intercept satellites. The upper-tier segment of Israel’s missile defence system, Arrow 3, achieved operational status on January 18, 2017. Distinguishing itself by operating at higher speeds, an extended range, and greater altitudes compared to Arrow 2, Arrow 3 is designed to intercept ballistic missiles during the space-flight phase of their trajectory.

Discover the Best of the Arrow ABM System of Israel
Discover the Best of the Arrow ABM System of Israel

Arrow ABM System Variants: A Comprehensive Overview

The Arrow Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) System, a cornerstone of Israel’s missile defence capabilities, comprises advanced variants designed to counter diverse ballistic missile threats.

Arrow 1

This early prototype marked a developmental milestone in establishing Israel’s missile defence capabilities. Although not deployed for active use, the system underwent rigorous testing and evaluation to contribute valuable insights to the subsequent advancements in the Arrow program. On August 9, 1990, the first launch of the Arrow interceptor aimed to assess the missile’s control and guidance systems.

Unfortunately, moments after liftoff, the missile was intentionally destroyed as a precautionary measure. Subsequent tests faced challenges, with a series of failures extending until 1994.

The ninth test launch on June 12, 1994, referred to as ATD#1 (Arrow Demonstration Test), witnessed the successful interception by Arrow 1 of a target missile launched from a ship anchored in the middle of the Mediterranean. Following various setbacks, Arrow 1 was discontinued, leading to the continuation of research with the smaller, faster, and more lethal Arrow 2.

Photo Credit: IAI

Arrow 2

Arrow 2 is intricately designed to effectively intercept incoming ballistic missiles within Earth’s atmosphere, with a primary focus on countering medium-range ballistic missiles. On November 29, 1998, Israel Aerospace Industries achieved a significant milestone by delivering the inaugural operational Arrow 2 interceptor to the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Preceding this delivery, a series of comprehensive tests (Arrow System Test / AST) had been conducted since 1995 to ensure the system’s readiness.

One notable event was the full system interception test (AST#4) held on November 1, 1999. During this critical test, the Arrow system demonstrated its capability by successfully locating, tracking, and intercepting a TM-91C target missile, which simulated a “Scud” missile. This target was launched on a very steep trajectory from a ship located offshore. Marking another milestone, on March 14, 2000, the first complete Arrow 2 battery was ceremoniously rolled out at Palmachim Airbase.

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Another crucial Arrow 2 test (AST#5) occurred on September 14, 2000, featuring a new target missile, the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems “Black Sparrow.” Launched from an IAF F-15 towards Israel’s coastline, this airborne ballistic target missile followed a trajectory simulating an aggressor “Scud” and was successfully intercepted and destroyed.

As a result of these achievements, the subsequent month witnessed the official declaration of operational status for the Palmachim Arrow battery by the Israeli Air Defense Command. Building on these successful outcomes, specific “Blocks” of the system were strategically developed to enhance its capabilities in countering potential future threats.

Photo Credit: IAI / Arrow 2 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Launch
Photo Credit: IAI / Arrow 2 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Launch with PhotoVibrance effects

Arrow 2 ABM: Block-2

On July 29, 2004, a significant joint test was conducted by Israel and the United States at the Naval Air Station Point Mugu (NAS Point Mugu) Missile Test Center in California. In this collaborative effort, the Arrow interceptor was launched against an actual “Scud-B” missile, presenting a realistic scenario that couldn’t be replicated in Israel due to safety restrictions in test fields. Facilitating this unique test, a complete battery was transported to Point Mugu.

The “Green Pine” radar and command-and-control systems were strategically deployed at the base, while the Arrow launcher found its place 100 km (62 mi) offshore on an island within the test range. The outcome was deemed successful, with the interceptor effectively destroying the “Scud,” which followed a trajectory of 300 km at an altitude of 40 km (25 mi) west of San Nicolas Island.

The actual testing of the complete Arrow Block-2 system occurred in December 2005, when the system achieved success by intercepting a target at an unspecified but reportedly record low altitude. This particular test (AST#10) marked the fourteenth overall test of the Arrow missile and the ninth test of the complete system.

Photo Credit: IAI / Arrow 2 launch in August 2020.
Photo Credit: IAI / Arrow 2 launch in August 2020

Arrow 2 ABM: Block-3

On February 11, 2007, an intercept and destruction operation took place, targeting a Black Sparrow missile with an Arrow 2 Block-3 system. This successful interception simulated the neutralization of a ballistic missile at a high altitude.

Notably, the operation involved the deployment of two Arrow units strategically spaced approximately 100 km apart, marking the first-ever implementation of a distributed weapon system test in Israel. The units demonstrated effective coordination in launch assignments and information sharing to counter imminent threats, introducing a novel approach to missile defence.

Furthermore, this event represented a significant milestone, as it was the inaugural use of the Link 16 data distribution system to integrate two Arrow units. Although the system had been previously employed in tests connecting Patriot and Arrow batteries, this occasion showcased the Link 16 system’s capabilities in uniting two Arrow systems seamlessly.

Additionally, on March 26, 2007, an unspecified precursor to the subsequent block was launched. This launch aimed to assess the system’s performance and flight characteristics, incorporating undisclosed hardware and electronics upgrades. Importantly, these modifications resulted in a notable reduction of approximately 20 per cent in production costs, highlighting the continuous efforts to enhance the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the missile defence system.

Photo Credit: IAI / Arrow-2-3
Photo Credit: IAI / Arrow 2 and 3

Arrow 2 ABM: Block-4

The Arrow armament system successfully detected and simulated intercepted a newly built target missile known as the Blue Sparrow on April 15, 2008. Designed as a successor to the Black Sparrow, this missile could replicate the characteristics of Scud-C/D missiles and purportedly imitate the Iranian Shahab-3.

The testing scenario involved launching a target missile from an Israeli Air Force F-15 at an altitude of 90,000 feet. Notably, the missile fragmented into multiple warheads, introducing complexity to the interception process. Despite this challenge, the Green Pine system effectively tracked the warhead, executing a simulated intercept.

Photo Credit: Boeing / A fully armed F-15EX, equipped with 8 AMRAAM and 4 Sidewinder AAMs, is flying at high speed with afterburner engaged
Photo Credit: Boeing / A fully armed F-15EX, equipped with 8 AMRAAM and 4 Sidewinder AAMs, is flying at high speed with an afterburner engaged/enhanced imagery

In September 2008, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted a test involving an operational Arrow 2 Block-4 missile against the Blue Sparrow. Unfortunately, the drill was prematurely halted due to a malfunction in the target missile shortly after launch. Subsequently, on April 7, 2009, the Arrow 2 Block-4 underwent a successful test against the Blue Sparrow, marking a noteworthy milestone in the continuous development and validation of Israel’s missile defence capabilities.

On February 22, 2011, during a flight test at NAS Point Mugu, the Arrow system successfully intercepted a long-range ballistic target missile, even though other tests had failed or been cancelled on July 22, 2009. Within the test range of Point Mugu, off the coast of California, the target missile was fired from a mobile launch platform.

New block-4 versions intended to enhance the Arrow 2 interceptor’s discriminating capabilities were validated by the test. The target was annihilated in the body-to-body impact that followed.

Before the block-4 Arrow system was delivered, developers completed the last target-tracking test on February 10, 2012. The combat management controller drew the intercept solutions and sent them to the launch units once the radar identified and tracked the Blue Sparrow target missile.

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Photo Credit: JNS
Photo Credit: JNS / target acquisition by Arrow ABM

Arrow 2 ABM: Block-5

In April 2011, the Israel Missile Defence Organization (IMDO) initially outlined a comprehensive new block-5 update to the entire Arrow system. This update aims to integrate the exoatmospheric capabilities of Arrow 3 with the lower-tier capabilities of Arrow 2, creating a unified national missile defence system.

According to the Israeli defence ministry, the proposed block-5 will incorporate new sensors for both ground and air surveillance, an advanced command and control system, and the introduction of a novel target missile known as Silver Sparrow. This target missile is designed to mimic Iranian delivery systems, which may potentially carry nuclear weapons.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency asserts that Block 5 is expected to augment the total defended area by approximately 40 to 50 per cent, enhancing its capacity to handle more intense regional threats.

With the assistance of the proposed block-5, the existing Super Green Pine radar will be optimized to collaborate with the American AN/TPY-2 radar and with radars controlling anti-ballistic missiles on U.S. Navy destroyers. In the event of attacks launched against Israel and U.S. sites in the vicinity, U.S. radars will be utilized to support closed-loop operations.

Photo Credit: Israeli MOD
Photo Credit: Israeli MOD / Arrow ABM Launch Platform:  Six canisters per trailer-mounted erector–launcher

Arrow 3

Development of Arrow 3, an advanced division of the Israeli Air Defence Command, was started by the US and Israeli governments in August 2008. An architectural definition study carried out in 2006–2007 established the necessity of integrating the upper-tier component into Israel’s ballistic missile defence system, which forms the basis of the development.

An exoatmospheric interceptor, to be developed in collaboration between IAI and Boeing, will be the primary component of this upper tier, according to IMDO. On January 18, 2017, Arrow 3 was deemed ready for use.

In comparison to Arrow 2, Arrow 3 can intercept ballistic missiles throughout the space-flight phase of their trajectory and can do so at higher altitudes, faster speeds, and longer ranges. Israel would become one of the few nations in the world able to shoot down satellites if Arrow 3 is used as an anti-satellite weapon, as stated by the chairman of the Israeli Space Agency.

Photo Credit: Israeli MOD
Photo Credit: Israeli MOD

Arrow 4

Initiating initial work on what may become Arrow 4, a new missile-intercepting system intended to ward off increasingly complex future threats, is Israel’s Defence Ministry in collaboration with industry developers. With an emphasis on intercepting hypersonic threats, including hypersonic cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles, Israel revealed in early 2021 that the Arrow 4 interceptor was under development.

In November 2022, Iran announced that it had successfully tested a hypersonic missile; however, there is disagreement over the veracity of this claim, which increased the urgency to counteract hypersonic threats. In as little as four minutes, a missile of that kind might reach Israel if launched from Iran.

Arrow Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Ground-Based Missile Defence Radar: Green Pine

The Green Pine is a technologically advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) solid-state radar, effectively operating at the L band within the expansive range of 500 MHz to 1,000 MHz, or alternatively, 1,000 MHz to 2,000 MHz. This radar system seamlessly performs in various modes, encompassing search, detection, tracking, and missile guidance, all concurrently.

Impressively, it demonstrates a capability to detect targets at ranges of up to approximately 500 km (310 mi) while simultaneously tracking more than 30 targets, even those moving at speeds exceeding 3,000 m/s (10,000 ft/s). The radar not only illuminates the target but also guides the Arrow missile with remarkable precision, bringing it within a mere 4 meters of the intended target.

Furthermore, an innovative Green Pine Block-B has been recently developed, enhancing the detection range to an impressive 800–900 km (500–560 mi). Yet, there is an even more advanced upgrade known as Super Green Pine that is currently in the developmental phase, promising further enhancements to the system’s capabilities.

Photo Credit: IAI / Green Pine Radar
Photo Credit: IAI / Green Pine Radar
Arrow ABM Battle Management Command, Control, Communication & Intelligence Center: Golden Citron

The Golden Citron represents a cutting-edge truck-mounted net-centric open systems architecture, serving as a Battle Management Command, Control, Communication & Intelligence (C3I) Center with the remarkable ability to oversee and control up to 14 intercepts simultaneously. This system stands out as one of the world’s most advanced net-centric platforms, showcasing its prowess in fully automatic operations and offering Human-in-the-Loop options at every stage of battle operation management.

Its impressive capabilities extend to seamless interoperability with other theatre missile defence systems and C3I systems, including but not limited to Link 16, TADIL-J, and various communication protocols.

Artificial Intelligence-Enhanced Imagery

This adaptability allows the Golden Citron to efficiently hand over assigned targets to other systems, facilitating a smooth and integrated approach to battle management. Its comprehensive suite of features positions the Golden Citron as a formidable asset in the realm of missile defence, showcasing its ability to orchestrate complex operations with precision and efficiency.

The “Citron Tree” configuration comprises three banks of operator consoles, manned by a team of 7–10 operators, strategically laid out in a “U” shape. Occupying the central position within this layout is the commanding officer, responsible for overseeing engagements. This central figure also maintains crucial links to other components within the battery and communicates with the Israeli Air Force (IAF) headquarters.

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Artificial Intelligence-Enhanced Imagery

Adjacent to the commander, on the right, is the engagement officer, tasked with ensuring the effective assignment of targets to other engagement officers situated along the right-hand leg of the “U.” Each engagement officer is assigned a specific geographical area to defend, with two officers holding more senior roles as they possess an overarching perspective across multiple batteries.

On the left side of the commanding officer, the resource officer is positioned to monitor the status and readiness of the missiles. Completing the “U” formation, the sky picture officer is located on the left side, maintaining communication with the Home Front Command. Leveraging the centre’s predictive capabilities, this officer is equipped to alert civil authorities by anticipating impact points.

Additionally, the operator consoles accommodate an intelligence officer and an after-action/debrief officer. The latter utilizes recordings, recognizing the challenge of absorbing all information during simultaneous engagements. This comprehensive team structure within the “Citron Tree” ensures efficient and coordinated management across various aspects of the missile defence system.

Photo Credit: IAI
Arrow ABM: Brown Hazelnut Launch Control Center

Situated at the launch site, approximately 300 km (190 mi) away from the “Golden Citron” fire control centre, the Brown Hazelnut launch control centre plays a pivotal role in the missile defence system. This centre utilizes both microwave and radio data and voice communication links to establish seamless connectivity with the “Green Pine” and “Golden Citron” components.

The launch methodology employed by Brown Hazelnut involves a vertical hot launch from a sealed canister, ensuring comprehensive all-azimuth coverage. This strategic positioning and advanced communication infrastructure contribute to the centre’s effectiveness in coordinating missile launches within the broader defence framework.

Arrow Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) System Technical Specifications

  • Weight:  3,500 kg (7,700 lb) with sealed canister
  • Length:  22.8 ft (7 m)
  • Diameter:  800 mm (31 in) – 1st stage and 500 mm (20 in) – 2nd stage
  • Wingspan:  820 mm (32 in)
  • Warhead:  Directed High Explosive blast fragmentation warhead, weighing 150 kg (330 lb)
  • Detonation:  Proximity fuze
  • Engine:  Two-stage with Solid propellant
  • Range:  90 km (56 mi) to 150 km (93 mi)
  • Flight ceiling: Exo-atmospheric
  • Speed:  Mach 9 (3.087 km/s)
  • Guidance:  Dual mode- passive infrared seeker and active radar seeker
  • Steering system: Thrust vectoring and four aerodynamic control moving fins
  • Launch Platform:  Six canisters per trailer-mounted erector–launcher

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In conclusion, the Arrow Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) System stands as a testament to Israel’s unwavering commitment to national security and technological prowess. Evolving from its early prototypes to the operational prowess of Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 variants, this multi-layered defence system showcases the nation’s dedication to staying at the forefront of missile defence technology. By seamlessly integrating advanced radar, sensors, and interceptors, the Arrow ABM System provides a robust shield against a spectrum of ballistic missile threats.

With an atmospheric interception focus in Arrow 2 and an exoatmospheric capability in Arrow 3, Israel has established a comprehensive defence architecture, safeguarding both military assets and civilian populations. The Arrow ABM System not only underscores the nation’s ability to adapt to evolving regional challenges but also reflects its enduring commitment to ensuring the safety and security of its people.

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