October 31, 2023 | Breaking Defense

In first, Israel’s Arrow air defense system intercepts ballistic missile near Red Sea: IDF

October 31, 2023 | Breaking Defense

In first, Israel’s Arrow air defense system intercepts ballistic missile near Red Sea: IDF

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Arrow air defense system for the first time intercepted a ballistic missile today, in an attempted strike believed to have been launched from Yemen.

The Israeli Defense Forces said the interception was the first operational use of the Arrow system since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, and that it “thwarted an aerial threat in the area of the Red Sea.” The IDF later said the missile was fired toward Israel but was intercepted before it could reach its target.

“All aerial threats were intercepted outside of Israeli territory. No infiltrations were identified into Israeli territory,” the IDF said.

Though the IDF did not say who responsible for the missile, the Houthi armed group reportedly claimed responsibility, and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused the Houthis of a similar attack last week. An Oct. 28 would-be strike using drones and missiles, attributed to the Houthis, was intercepted by fire from a US naval ship. Since Hamas’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7, other groups back by Iran have sporadically joined in the fighting, including attempted strikes from the Houthis in Yemen and deadly skirmishes between Lebanese Hezbollah and Israeli forces along Israel’s northern border.

The day before the Oct. 28  interceptions by the USS Carney, Israeli aircraft managed to intercept other threats near the Red Sea using aircraft, the IDF said.

Though today marks Arrow’s first operational intercept of a ballistic missile, its first operational use came back in 2017 when it intercepted a surface-to-air missile fired from Syria. The Arrow program provides Israel with the upper tier of its multi-layered air defense system, together with David’s Sling and Iron Dome.

The current Arrow system is called Arrow 3 and was recently sold to Germany as Berlin sought a solution to threats in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine. Israel announced it was working on an Arrow 4 system to build on the success of Arrow 3 in 2021.

Israel Aerospace Industries, the lead Israeli contractor on the Arrow, praised the IDF for the successful interception.

“The Arrow is an advanced air defense system created and designed to intercept ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere,” IAI said. It noted that the system was developed by Israel and the Missile Defense Agency in the US.

“The Arrow system […] demonstrated today that Israel possesses the most advanced technology for defense against ballistic missiles at various ranges,” CEO and President of the IAI, Boaz Levy, said.

As Israel broadens its costly counterattack into Gaza, Jerusalem is facing aerial threats from several directions. It is estimated that more than 8,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza, although exact numbers are not available. From Lebanon, Hezbollah has launched numerous anti-tank missiles, and there have been several rocket launches from other armed groups Syria. The Houthis in Yemen are more than a 1,000 miles from Israel, but the group has shown it is capable of long-range strikes.

On October 29 the pro-Iranian Al-Mayadeen media reported that the Houthi leadership had threatened Israel due to operations in Gaza and also viewed the current conflict in the region as one in which the US and Israel were working together.

Israel’s IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, referring to the Houthi threat, said on the evening of October 31 that Israel knows how to protect itself and protect its interests. He said that despite the threats, Israel was concentrated on the conflict against Hamas and would not be distracted by the incident, but could act in the future at a time and place of its choosing.

Seth Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


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