Arrow (Israeli missile)

Arrow 2
Arrow 2 launch on July 29, 2004, in Naval Air Station Point Mugu Missile Test Center, during AST USFT#1
Arrow 2 launch on July 29, 2004, at the Naval Air Station Point Mugu Missile Test Center, during AST USFT#1.
TypeAnti-ballistic missile
Place of originIsrael[1]
Service history
In service2000–present
Used byIsrael
WarsMarch 2017 Israel–Syria incident
Production history
DesignerIsrael Aerospace Industries
ManufacturerIsrael Aerospace Industries, Boeing
Unit costUS$3 million (as of 2003[2])
  • 1,300 kg (2,900 lb)[3] – "missile itself"
  • 2,800 kg (6,200 lb)[4] – officially
  • 3,500 kg (7,700 lb)[5] – sealed canister

6.8 m (22 ft)[6] – 7 m (23 ft)[7][4]

  • 3.45 m (11.3 ft)[8] – booster section
  • 0.75 m (2.5 ft)[8] – sustainer section
  • 2.75 m (9.0 ft)[8] – kill vehicle section

By stage:

  • 800 mm (31 in)[7][8] – 1st stage
  • 500 mm (20 in)[6] – 2nd stage
WarheadDirected high explosive fragmentation[8]
Warhead weight150 kg (330 lb)[9]
Proximity fuze[7][8]

Wingspan820 mm (32 in)[6]
PropellantSolid propellant[7][8]
90 km (56 mi)[7][8] – 150 km (93 mi)[6]
Flight ceilingExo-atmospheric.[10][11]
SpeedArrow 2: Mach 9, means 2.5 km/s (1.6 mi/s)[7][8]
Dual mode: passive infrared seeker and active radar seeker[7][8]
Thrust vectoring and four aerodynamic control moving fins[8]
AccuracyWithin 4 m (13 ft) of the target[7][12]
Six canisters per trailer-mounted erector–launcher[7][8]

The Arrow or Hetz (Hebrew: חֵץ‬, pronounced [ˈχet͡s]) is a family of anti-ballistic missiles designed to fulfill an Israeli requirement for a missile defense system that would be more effective against ballistic missiles than the MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile. Jointly funded and produced by Israel and the United States, development of the system began in 1986 and has continued since, drawing some contested criticism. Undertaken by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Boeing, it is overseen by the Israeli Ministry of Defense's "Homa" (Hebrew: חומה‎, pronounced [χoma], "rampart") administration and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

The Arrow system consists of the joint production hypersonic Arrow anti-missile interceptor, the Elta EL/M-2080 "Green Pine" early-warning AESA radar, the Elisra "Golden Citron" ("Citron Tree") C3I center, and the Israel Aerospace Industries "Brown Hazelnut" ("Hazelnut Tree") launch control center. The system is transportable, as it can be moved to other prepared sites.

Following the construction and testing of the Arrow 1 technology demonstrator, production and deployment began with the Arrow 2 version of the missile. The Arrow is considered one of the most advanced missile defense programs currently in existence.[13][14] It is the first operational missile defense system specifically designed and built to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles.[15][16] The first Arrow battery was declared fully operational in October 2000. Although several of its components have been exported, the Israeli Air Defense Command within the Israeli Air Force (IAF) of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is currently the sole user of the complete Arrow system.

The spaceflight upper-tier portion of Israel's missile defense, Arrow 3, was declared operational on January 18, 2017.[17] Arrow 3 operates at greater speeds,[18] greater range and at greater altitudes than Arrow 2, intercepting ballistic missiles during the space-flight portion of their trajectory. According to the chairman of the Israeli Space Agency, Arrow 3 may serve as an anti-satellite weapon, which would make Israel one of the world's few countries capable of shooting down satellites.[19]


The Arrow program was launched in light of the acquisition by Arab states of long ranged surface-to-surface missiles.[4][20] It was chosen over RAFAEL Armament Development Authority's AB-10 missile defense system since the Arrow was judged to be a more complete concept and have greater range. The AB-10 system was criticized as being merely an improved MIM-23 Hawk, rather than a system designed from the outset for missile interception.[21]

The United States and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding to co-fund the Arrow program on May 6, 1986,[22][23] and in 1988 the United States Department of Defense Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) placed an order with Israel Aircraft Industries for the Arrow 1 technology demonstrator.[7][22][24][Note 1] The Gulf War, which exposed the controversial performance[25] of the Patriot missile against Iraqi "Al Hussein" missiles, gave further impetus to the development of the Arrow.[4] It was initially designed to intercept missiles such as the SS-1 "Scud", its "Al Hussein" derivative, the SS-21 "Scarab" operated by Syria, and the CSS-2 operated by Saudi Arabia.[20] The Arrow evolved also with an eye on the advanced missile programs of Iran. Yitzhak Rabin, then Defense Minister of Israel, viewed the emerging missile threat as one of the most dangerous future threats on Israel's security.[26] He said of the program that:

The Israeli Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, part of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, runs the Arrow development project under the "Homa" administration. The "Homa" administration, which is also commonly referred to as the IMDO – Israel Missile Defense Organization, is responsible for coordinating industrial activities of Israel's different defense companies involved in the development of the Arrow system.[24][27]


The multibillion-dollar development program of the Arrow is undertaken in Israel with the financial support of the United States. When the development program began, the projection for the total cost of its development and manufacture – including the initial production of missiles – was an estimated $1.6 billion.[27] The price of a single Arrow missile was estimated at $3 million.[27] Between 1989 and 2007 some $2.4 billion had been reportedly invested in the Arrow program, 50–80[28] percent of which was funded by the United States.[29] Israel contributes approximately $65 million annually.[27]

Criticism and opposition

The Arrow program encountered opposition from the IAF, whose traditional doctrine of deterrence and use of preemptive strikes stand in sharp contrast with the nature of the missile. In addition, the IAF feared that the procurement of the costly missiles would diminish the resources allocated towards offensive projects such as fighter aircraft.[32]

A criticism of the concept of missile defense for Israel was aired by Dr. Reuven Pedatzur in a comprehensive study[33] published in 1993 by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.[Note 2] The arguments made in the study conformed to the opinions of numerous defense officials and analysts, and echoed many of the arguments made by the Strategic Defense Initiative critics in the United States.[26]

Pedatzur argued that it was exceedingly simple to fool an Arrow-type defensive system with simple, cheap, and easily installed countermeasures, which would render the Arrow system ineffective. He doubted Israel's defense industries could rise to the challenge of such a complex system, citing anonymous experts in the IDF who predicted that the system would not be available before 2010. He envisaged enormous costs, around $10 billion,[27] that would distort budgeting priorities and divert funds from the vital enhancement of the IDF's warfighting capability, thus forcing a profound revision of Israel's national security doctrine. He further argued that even if effective against missiles with conventional, chemical or biological warheads, the Arrow would not be relevant against future threats of missiles with nuclear warheads, since it would never be able to supply hermetic defense and the impact of even a single nuclear warhead in Israel's densely populated urban area would be an existential threat to Israel.[20][26]

At the same time, John E. Pike, who worked then with the Federation of American Scientists, stated that "given technical problems with the systems radar and command system, coupled with its high development cost, the Arrow program may soon fall by the wayside".[34] Victoria Samson, a research associate of the Center for Defense Information, also stated in October 2002 that the Arrow system cannot track an incoming missile that has split its warhead into submunitions.[35]

In June 2003 a group of Israeli chief engineers, co-inventors, and project managers of IAI and subcontractors were awarded the Israel Defense Prize for the development and production of the Arrow system.[36]

According to Dr. Uzi Rubin, first Director of IMDO, with the passage of time most of the pessimistic predictions have proven to be unfounded. Israel's defense industries overcame the technical challenge, the system's development was completed a full decade ahead of what was predicted, and there are no indications that the expenditures for the Arrow harmed other IDF procurement plans to any degree whatsoever.[26] Rubin insists that Israel's missile defense is now an established fact and that most of the warnings issued by critics have failed to materialize.[26] Pedatzur, however, remained unconvinced.[37][38]