August 13, 2012: The Israeli Air Force announced that the new Block 4 version of its Arrow 2 anti-missile missiles are being installed, along with upgrades to the fire control and radar systems. February tests confirmed the effectiveness of new detection capabilities of the Green Pine radar. Block 4 provides greater accuracy and the ability to intercept missiles farther away. Block 4 has been in development for over four years. Arrow fire control upgrades include tighter coordination with Patriot and Iron Dome anti-missile systems.
The Arrow system has been in service for 12 years and has racked up an impressive string of successes in test launches. Designed to deal with short and medium range ballistic missiles, it protects Israel from Syrian and Iranian attack. Israel itself has three batteries of Arrow anti-missile missiles. The latest battery to enter service (two years ago) has the new Oren Adir (Magnificent Pine) radar, which has a longer range and is better able to identify potential targets than the existing Green Pine radar. An Arrow battery has 4-8 launchers and each launcher carries six missiles in containers. The two ton Arrow 1 has been replaced with the 1.3 ton Arrow 2, which can shoot down ballistic missiles fired from Iran. The Block 4 is the third major upgrade Arrow 2. The even more effective Arrow 3 is not expected to be ready for use for 2-3 years.
The United States has long shared the expense of developing the Arrow. This includes contributing over a hundred million dollars for work on the Arrow 3. More than half of the nearly three billion dollar cost of developing and building Arrow has come from the United States. In addition, American firms have done some of the development work or contributed technology. The U.S. has also provided Israel with a mobile X-band radar that enables it to detect incoming ballistic missiles farther away.
Currently, the Israeli Green Pine radar can only detect a ballistic missile fired from Iran when the missile warhead is about two minutes from hitting a target in Israel. The X-band radar allows the Iranian missile to be spotted when it is 5-6 minutes away, enabling the Israeli Arrow anti-missile missile to hit the Iranian warhead farther away and with greater certainty. The Arrow 3 is expected to need something like the X-band radar to take advantage of the longer missile range. The Arrow 3 could also use satellite or UAV warnings of distant ballistic missile launches. Arrow 3 weighs about half as much as Arrow 2 and costs about a third less. First tests of Arrow 3 are to take place next year.
In 2010, Israel began increasing the production of its Arrow anti-missile missiles. Costing over three million dollars each, and partly constructed in the United States (by Boeing), the Arrow missiles are one of the few proven anti-missile systems available. Since Arrow entered service ten years ago, only about 130 missiles have been built. Currently Israel has over a hundred Arrow missiles available and would like to increase that to 200 in the next few years.