The Arrow 3 is a U.S.-Israeli-built missile defense interceptor designed to defeat medium-range ballistic missiles. Entering service in 2017, the missile uses a hit-to-kill warhead to engage targets in space. It is the longest-range interceptor currently fielded with the Arrow Weapon System, complementing the Arrow 2, which engages targets in the upper atmosphere.
The Arrow 3 interceptor interfaces with the Arrow Weapon System, which includes a launcher, ground-based radar, and battle management system. The Arrow 3 missile consists of a two-stage, solid-fueled booster with a separating kinetic kill vehicle (KV). Smaller than the Arrow 2, the missile fits in a 21-inch vertical launch tube and has an estimated flyout range of up to 2,400 km.1 Arrow 3’s boosters and kill vehicle employ thrust vector control for maneuvering. The interceptor also includes a deployable rear flare for added aerodynamic stability.
Unlike other kill vehicles, which use smaller divert thrusters for course correction, the Arrow 3 KV features a single rear thruster which pivots to provide lateral control authority. Due to this control method, the KV includes a gimbaled—rather than fixed—electrooptical seeker, which points toward the target as the vehicle changes its orientation. 2
Arrow 3 development
Israel’s defense establishment began deliberations over an upper-tier Arrow interceptor before March 2007, and by August 2007, Arrow 3 had entered early development.3 The Israeli Ministry of Defense made a milestone decision to begin development in mid-March 2008.4 According to reports, Israel selected Arrow 3 over a U.S. offer to sell the THAAD missile defense system.5
On February 25, 2013, Israel conducted its first flight test of the Arrow 3, successfully flying it on an “exo-atmospheric trajectory through space” to verify its propulsion system.6 Israel successfully completed a second flyout test on January 3, 2014.7
On December 16, 2014, the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) attempted its first intercept test for the interceptor, which was cancelled after the Arrow system’s radars failed to track the target missile. No Arrow-3 interceptor was launched.8 On December 10, 2015, Arrow 3 achieved its first successful intercept of a “low-debris” ballistic missile target over the Mediterranean Sea.9 Two successive attempts, on December 4, 2017 and January 10, 2018, were declared no-tests after malfunctions in the target missile and range communications system, respectively.10
Date Name Result Notes Feb 25, 2013 Success First flight test, “flew exo-atmospheric trajectory through space” without target launched. Jan 3, 2014 Success Second test, “flew an exo-atmospheric trajectory through space” without target launched. December 16, 2014 Failure/no-test Test cancelled after unspecified error, later found to be radar failure to track target missile. December 10, 2015 Success First ballistic missile intercept test; “low-debris target” intercepted over Mediterranean December 4, 2017 N/A No-test; test cancelled after target missile malfunction January 10, 2018 N/A No-test; test cancelled after communications malfunction February 19, 2018 Success Unclear if intercept test or flyout test; interceptor “was launched and completed its mission” in central Israel January 22, 2019 Success Ballistic missile intercept test; took place in central Israel July 28, 2019 Flight Test Arrow (FTA)-01 Success Ballistic missile intercept test; took place in Kodiak, AK with AN/TPY-2 radar
Arrow 3 completed development and was inducted into the Israeli Air Force on January 18, 2017.11 The Arrow 3 entered full-rate production in August 2017; Roughly 50% of the system’s components are produced in the United States.12
Since receiving its first Arrow systems in January 2017, Israel has conducted three Arrow 3 flight tests, declaring all as successful. The first, on February 19, 2018, took place in central Israel and was not specified as a flyout or intercept test.13 The second, on January 22, 2019, ended with the interceptor striking a ballistic missile target.14 The third, named Flight Test Arrow-01 (FTA-01), took place in Kodiak, Alaska against an unspecified ballistic missile target; according to the Missile Defense Agency, the intercept test involved successful integration of the US-built AN/TPY-2 radar with the Arrow system.15
Cooperation with United States
From 2008 to 2019, the United States has provided nearly $1.2B in aid for Arrow 3 development and procurement, and nearly $3.8B towards the Arrow Weapons System in total.16 In May 2009, the United States, during a US-Israeli strategic dialogue, pledged to fund the Arrow Weapon System development program, and in June 2009, Congress promised $37.5M toward Arrow 3 aid.17 In July 2010, Israel’s weapons development authority, MAFAT, and the United States Missile Defense Agency (MDA), signed an agreement for funding Arrow 3.18
In 2019, Israel and the United States signed a co-production agreement for the Arrow 3, and in September 2019, initiated “full production” of the system.19 In its fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress appropriated $77M towards Arrow 3 development and co-production.20
- “Arrow Weapon System (AWS),” IHS Jane’s Land Warfare Platforms: Artillery and Air Defence 2012-13, ed. Christopher F. Foss and James C. O’Halloran (United Kingdom: IHS, 2013), 692-695.
- Arrow Weapon System: The World’s Most Advanced Missile Defense System, (Lod, Israel: IAI, n.d.), https://www.iai.co.il/drupal/sites/default/files/2020-05/Arrow%20Brochure_0.pdf.
- Yaakov Katz, “IAF launches new ‘cheap’ Arrow,” The Jerusalem Post, March 26, 2007, https://www.jpost.com/Israel/IAF-launches-new-cheap-Arrow; Yaakov Katz, “IDF modifying Arrow deployment in the North,” The Jerusalem Post, August 23, 2007, https://www.jpost.com/Israel/IDF-modifying-Arrow-deployment-in-the-North.
- Yaakov Katz, “Can the Arrow thwart Iran’s Shihab 3?” The Jerusalem Post, April 3, 2008, https://www.jpost.com/Israel/Can-the-Arrow-thwart-Irans-Shihab-3.
- Yaakov Katz, “Officials: Bush pledged funding for Arrow 3,” The Jerusalem Post, May 20, 2008, https://www.jpost.com/Israel/Officials-Bush-pledged-funding-for-Arrow-3.
- “Arrow-3 Interceptor Successfully Conducts First Flight Test,” Missile Defense Agency, February 25, 2013, https://www.mda.mil/news/13news0003.html; Isabel Kershner, “Israel Plans Interceptor Missile Test and Gives Neighbors Early Notice,” The New York Times, March 1, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/02/world/middleeast/israel-plans-interceptor-missile-test.html?searchResultPosition=5.
- “Arrow-3 Interceptor Successfully Conducts Second Flyout Test,” news release, Missile Defense Agency, January 3, 2014, https://www.mda.mil/news/14news0001.html.
- “‘No Test’ Declared for Arrow-3 Interceptor,” Defense News, December 17, 2014, https://www.defensenews.com/global/mideast-africa/2014/12/17/no-test-declared-for-arrow-3-interceptor/; Isabel Kershner, “Israel Hails ‘Successful’ Test of Antiballistic Missile System,” The New York Times, December 10, 2015; https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/11/world/middleeast/israel-hails-successful-test-of-antiballistic-missile-system.html?searchResultPosition=2; Dan Williams, “Israel’s Arrow 3 missile shield fails interception test: sources,” Reuters, December 16, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-arms-israel-arrow-idUSKBN0JU1DK20141216.
- Ibid.; “IMDO and MDA Successfully Complete First Arrow-3 Ballistic Missile Defense Engagement,” news release, Missile Defense Agency, December 10, 2015, https://www.mda.mil/news/15news0010.html.
- Barbara Opall-Rome, “Target glitch prompts a ‘no test’ for US-Israel Arrow-3 missile interceptor,” Defense News, December 4, 2017, https://www.defensenews.com/global/mideast-africa/2017/12/04/target-glitch-prompts-a-no-test-for-us-israel-arrow-3-missile-interceptor/.
- “Israel Expands Missile Defense System With New Interceptor,” The Washington Post, January 18, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/israel-expands-missile-defense-system-with-new-interceptor/2017/01/18/7ef8681e-dd96-11e6-8902-610fe486791c_story.html?utm_term=.13d0e78b8045.
- Barbara Opall-Rome, “US-Israel teams ramp up interceptor builds,” Defense News, August 8, 2017, https://www.defensenews.com/smr/2017/08/03/us-israel-teams-ramp-up-interceptor-builds/.
- “IMDO and MDA Successfully Complete a Flight Test of the Arrow 3 Missile Defense System,” news release, Missile Defense Agency, February 19, 2018, https://www.mda.mil/news/18news0002.html.
- “IMDO and MDA Successfully Complete a Flight Test of the Arrow Weapon System,” news release, Missile Defense Agency, January 22, 2019, https://www.mda.mil/news/18news0009.html.
- “Arrow Weapon System Successfully Engages Ballistic Missile Target,” news release, Missile Defense Agency, July 28, 2019, https://www.mda.mil/news/19news0006.html.
- Jeremy M. Sharp, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, RL33222, (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, November 2020), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf.
- Yaakov Katz, “US to fully fund Arrow 3 missile system,” The Jerusalem Post, May 20, 2009, https://www.jpost.com/Israel/US-to-fully-fund-Arrow-3-missile-system; Hilary Leila Krieger, “Congress votes $37.5m for Arrow-3 program,” The Jerusalem Post, June 27, 2009, https://www.jpost.com/Israel/Congress-votes-375m-for-Arrow-3-program.
- Yaakov Katz, “US to fully fund Arrow 3 system,” The Jerusalem Post, July 25, 2010, https://www.jpost.com/Israel/US-to-fully-fund-Arrow-3-system.
- Selected Acquisition Report: Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) As of FY 2021 President’s Budget, (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense, September 2019), https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/FOID/Reading%20Room/Selected_Acquisition_Reports/FY_2019_SARS/20-F-0568_DOC_16_BMDS_SAR_Dec_2019_Full.pdf.p
- U.S. Congress, William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, PL 116-283, 116th Cong., 2nd sess., introduced in House March 26, 2020, https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6395/text.