Arrow Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile System and Ofek Satellite Program Suffer Setbacks

According to a report in Jane’s Defence Weekly, development of the Arrow-2 “Chetz” antitactical ballistic missile (ATBM) system has fallen at least one year behind schedule due to bureaucratic red tape and a fire at its production facility in April 1997.

A Israeli Knesset member recently disclosed that major project management errors had been discovered which have slowed the development of the Arrow. In addition, the Israeli Ministry of Defense conceded in January 1998 that the fire and explosion at an Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) plant, where much of the Arrow work is conducted, caused about $30 million in damage and set back the program six to nine months.

The Arrow-2 is a two-stage, solid-fuel missile, and is a key component of Israel’s program to develop an anti-missile shield linked to Israeli military surveillance satellites that are launched by IAI’s Shavit rockets. The Arrow is a joint project of Israel and the United States.

News of the delay comes on the heels of successful tests in 1996 and 1997. The inaugural intercept test, and the third overall, of the Arrow-2 was conducted on August 20, 1996. During this test, the target – a modified Arrow-1 missile with a radar cross section and payload designed to match that of a Scud – was fired from a launch platform in the Mediterranean. The Arrow-2 was then launched from the Israeli Air Force Test Range just south of Tel Aviv. Within 45 seconds, the Arrow-2 locked on and destroyed the target. The intercept was designed to test the capability of the Arrow-2’s missile guidance and control system, its ability to receive inflight updates from the fire control center, and to test its tracking and destruction of a target.

In its fourth test launch, in March 1997, the Arrow-2 scored a direct hit against a missile target, although, according to a report in Aviation Week and Space Technology, its fragmentation warhead failed to detonate due to a sensor malfunction. Despite the problem, U.S. and Israeli officials said the “overwhelming majority of test objectives were achieved” because the Arrow acquired, locked on, intercepted and destroyed the target. The March test also employed for the first time as an integrated system both the “Green Pine” fire control radar and the “Citron Tree” battle management center. “Green Pine” is manufactured by Israel’s Elta Electronics Industries and the fire control system is produced by Tadiran.

A month later, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai agreed to continue their cooperation on the Arrow program, with the U.S. pledging a 25% increase in its annual $200 million contribution.

Arrow’s next test, in August 1997, was not successful. Seconds after launch, the missile veered from its planned flight path and had to be destroyed. According to a report in Jane’s Defence Weekly, the Israeli Ministry of Defense said the problem stemmed from an “irregular functioning of one of its subsystems,” but stressed that the aborted test would “not affect the timetable to complete the development and equipping of the Arrow system.”

Despite the failure, Israeli TV announced in November 1997 that the Arrow would be “partly operational” by mid-1998. Although the Ministry of Defense and IAI refuse to comment on the report, there is speculation that the Arrow is being readied in case Iran is successful in its bid to develop long-range missiles.

On the space front, Israel secretly launched the Ofek-4 spy satellite in January 1998, but it failed to reach its proper orbit, and was expected to burn up reentering the Earth’s atmosphere. Ofek-4 was set to replace the Ofek-3 satellite, which has been operating nine months longer than planned. Loss of the Ofek-4 means Israel will soon be without any reconnaissance satellites to monitor activities in Iran and Iraq.

The Ofek-4 satellite program is one of Israel’s most ambitious projects, and several of its top defense companies are involved: Elisra built the video compression, Elop manufactured its cameras, Elbit supplied the computer, Tadiran the communications, and Rafael provided Ofek’s electricity and power.