TEL AVIV (Nov. 4)
Israel’s Arrow anti-missile missile project, financed largely by the United States, seems in danger of fading away, like much of the controversial U.S. “Star Wars” program of the 1980s, of which it is an offshoot.
The third test launch of the Hetz (Hebrew for arrow), was carried out from the deck of a ship last week. Despite tight secrecy, enough details were leaked to U.S. military journals to reveal it was a failure.
That was the third strike against the Arrow, designed and manufactured by the government-owned Israel Aircraft Industries for the purpose of protecting Israel from attack by long-range ballistic missiles.
U.S. funding for the project to date amounts to some $440 million.
The first test, from a land-based launch site nearly two years ago, was pronounced a success by IAI, even though the radar-tracking system operated by the Israeli air force malfunctioned.
The second test, six months ago, was seaborne. It failed because part of the navigation system burned out and the onboard computer malfunctioned.
Why the latest test fizzled was not disclosed.
The Arrow’s designers said such a complex system would inevitably have “teething troubles.”
But the U.S. defense establishment admits having second thoughts about the Arrow — and about the entire “Star Wars” system, officially known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, which former President Ronald Reagan sold to the American public as an impregnable space-based defense against nuclear attack.
Nevertheless, Israel is still vitally interested in a missile defense system, especially after coming under attack by Iraqi Scud missiles during the Persian Gulf War last winter.
The much hyped anti-missile Patriot batteries provided Israel by the United States and Germany have since been disclosed as only partially effective, at best.
The Israel Defense Force, in fact, has just published a critique of the Patriots which casts doubt on their ability to intercept and destroy the relatively unsophisticated Scuds.
In some cases where Patriots intercepted Scuds, they showered more debris and caused more damage and harm than the Scuds alone.