Aborted rocket test: A chink in Israel's anti-Iran armor?

The highly touted Arrow 2 is considered central to Israel's defense against an unconventional attack.

Israel Aircraft Industries/AP/File
This 2005 file photo, released by Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd., shows an Arrow missile being launched at an undisclosed location in Israel.

TEL AVIVIsrael's defense ministry said that it aborted a Wednesday test of the Arrow 2 rocket, a rare glitch in an ongoing effort to improve a system developed to intercept Iranian ballistic missiles.

The highly touted Arrow 2, which has been operational for about a decade, is considered a central element in Israel's defense against a nonconventional attack. Local defense analysts said the launch failure marked a developmental setback for the system, but added that Israel still has ample deterrence against an attack from Tehran.

"It’s a step back for the prestige of the Arrow missile, but Israel's defense posture is still as strong as before,'' said Meir Javedanfar, an Israel-based expert on Iran. "I don't think this is going to encourage Iran to launch a first strike.''

The analyst said that Israel's ability to strike Iran targets with its air force and the quality of its intelligence are more important elements in deterrence.

Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror confirmed that a "glitch'' occurred during the test launch and Israeli officials decided to abort, but declined to be more specific.

Dror said that the missile was being tested against advanced versions of Iran's Shahab 3 missile that aren't operational yet. He insisted the test was not a failure and that much of the Arrow system performed to expectations.

Yossi Melman, a veteran military commentator for the influential Haaretz newspaper, called it a "resounding failure'' and questioned whether the Israeli defense system was keeping up with Iran's ever-improving missile program.

"The Defense Ministry's well-oiled public relations machine has for years propagated the notion that the Arrow system is the best in the world, and that it is capable of answering long-range missile threats against Israel,'' he wrote. "Yet, in practice, it turns out that the threats are growing more ominous, and, in this game of cat and mouse, a defense system has no chance to get up to speed with missiles whose range and efficacy are increasing at a fast pace.''

The Arrow 2 system has received US government funding and uses a Boeing missile. The radar and the command system are made by Israeli defense companies.

A ministry statement said only that the "appropriate conditions were not produced for the launch of the interceptor.'' Israel denied reports that a communication breakdown with the US-made missile was the source of the problem.

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