“For more than one threat—salvos—we have to intercept far away and very high and see the threats coming in real time,” says Kaya. “That's what led us to the Arrow 3 solution. There's a large diversity of threats pointing at the center of Israel. We started with the operational need for near-zero leakage rates and low cost. It demanded a low-cost interceptor, high interception rates and the use of fewer missiles to be effective. That produced the multi-layer defense concept.”
Arrow 3 operates outside the atmosphere as the first layer of the nation's missile defense strategy. Arrow 2 is the intermediate tier and is followed by Patriot (and soon David's Sling); the final layer is Iron Dome.
“We are taking into account that new [ballistic missile] technology is being imported into the region all the time,” says Kaya. “That's why we're talking about Arrow as a flexible and adaptive system. Arrow is now dealing with threats that we didn't even dream about 20 years ago.”
Russia, China, Pakistan and North Korea are all exporters of ballistic weapons technology. Pakistan and North Korea also have sold nuclear weapons know-how.
“I cannot speak about specific threats, but the intelligence guys are doing good work on existing missiles and what's coming in the next 5-10 years,” says Kaya.
The Arrow 3 capability offers a look-shoot-look formula for its interceptions. Because of its early-detection capabilities, there is more space and time to assess the first shot and launch another missile if needed.
Moreover, Arrow 3 has a “divert” capability in its interceptors. It can be launched into an area of space even before it is known where the target missile is going. Israeli planners call it a “waiting space.” When the target and its course are identified, the Arrow interceptor is redirected using its thrust-vectoring nozzle to close the gap and conduct what officials call a “body-to-body” or “hit-to-kill” intercept.
While the window for intercepting long-range ballistic missiles is still small, it has been expanded by the Arrow's improved kinematic envelope.
“The maneuvering capability of the Arrow 3 gives you a more robust solution,” says Kaya. “The divert [option] is a big upgrade in the missile's ability to deal with future threats. If the first target is successfully intercepted, a second [Arrow 3 interceptor assigned as a backup] will be assigned to [pursue] another target.”
There is no need for a fragmentation warhead because an advanced, proportional-navigation system juggles line-of-sight and relative vehicle motion to align the flight paths of the interceptor and the target missile.