On October 17, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) declared the Arrow-2 theater ballistic missile defense system operational. The IDF announcement did not further explain the move, but an Israeli official said it could be viewed as a "response to the current situation."
Arab-Israeli tensions have been heightened since the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence following the September 28 visit of right-wing Likud leader Ariel Sharon to a sacred, but controversial, site in Jerusalem. Iraq, which has threatened Israel since the latest round of violence started, launched Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Israel's air force assumed command of the first of three planned Arrow batteries in March and held the first successful test against an incoming target on September 14. (See ACT, October 2000.) The Israeli official commented that the system is now "ready to do what it was designed to do," which is to intercept theater ballistic missiles. Though declared operational, testing of the system will continue and improvements will be made, according to the official, who pointed out that the system is still new.
Jointly developed by the United States and Israel starting in 1988, the Arrow employs a blast fragmentation warhead to destroy incoming targets rather than the hit-to-kill technology being pursued in U.S. systems. Total costs for the system are estimated to reach $2.2 billion by 2010. The United States has contributed approximately $600 million to the effort.