Israelis sources have confirmed a "resounding failure" for a crucial series of live firing tests for the Arrow missile-defense system.
The attempted firings took place in California last week and were intended to assess the efficiency of the upgraded version of Arrow II against an incoming intermediate-range ballistic missile such as the Shahab-3 missile, Associated Press reported.
Although individual elements of the improved system had been tested previously in Israel, the complete system has never been proven against a realistic long-range target due to the lack of space in and around Israel.
According to the US Missile Defense Agency, in one of last week’s tests a US Air Force C-17 aircraft launched a dummy missile over the Pacific Ocean.
The Arrow’s radar detected and tracked the target and the data was passed to the "battle management control center", however, due to various malfunctions, the Arrow interceptor missile was not launched.
Other communications problems between the radar and the missile prevented a successful launch on two other occasions last week.
Israel had test-fired the improved Arrow II against a "Blue Sparrow" missile over the Mediterranean last April, but that was not a close enough analog for an incoming ballistic missile.
Given that the sole purpose of taking the complete complex Arrow system to the US West Coast was to test-fire the Arrow interceptor against a close analog of a ballistic missile fired far from the Arrow battery, its repeated failures can be fairly described as catastrophic.
The Arrow system — jointly developed by the Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. and the Boeing Corporation of the US — was originally designed to intercept short-range Scud-type missiles launched from 300-400 km (186-249 miles) away.
However, with the development of Iran’s Shahab-3 and Sejjil missiles with ranges of up to 2,000 km (1,243 miles), Israel has modified the system to maintain its invulnerability in the face of an Iranian response to any Israeli attack.
In parallel to the improved Arrow II system, Israel is developing an Arrow III, described by Israeli sources as a "totally different system", which acknowledges Arrow II’s inherent shortcomings and lack of development potential.
The rising quantity and quality of Iran’s ballistic missiles, combined with the repeated failures of the Arrow system have resulted in calls in Israel for the procurement of the US THAAD missile defense system.
Like Arrow III, the THAAD system is still under development and years away from operational deployment.