Arrow 3 missile

Israel’s upgraded Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system has reportedly failed its first live interception trial over the Mediterranean Sea, because of technical problems.

Unnamed Israeli security sources were quoted by Reuters as saying that the Arrow 3 battery operators at Palmahim air base aborted the interceptor missile launch after it failed to lock on to a target missile fired over sea.

One of the sources said: "There was a countdown to the launch and then nothing happened.

"A decision was made not to waste the interceptor missile."

The Israeli Defence Ministry also confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that a target missile used to test the Arrow system was fired at Israeli air space from over the Mediterranean Sea on 16 December.

Israeli Defence Ministry Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure source Yair Ramati said the trial was supposed to have two phases.

"The first part of the launch involved tracking the target missile, which was fired over the Mediterranean Sea toward Israel," Ramati said.

"There was a countdown to the launch and then nothing happened."

"In the second phase, the Arrow 3 interceptor was supposed to be fired after a series of conditions we set for the trial are met.

"At an early phase, we collectively decided that the conditions have not been met. In accordance to our criteria, we decided not to launch the Arrow 3 interceptor."

An upgraded variant of the Arrow 2 defence system, the Arrow 3 is designed to intercept long-range missiles, including intermediate-range ballistic missiles at altitudes of more than 100km, as well as those equipped with non-conventional warheads.

The two-stage, hit-to-kill missile is expected to add interception opportunities to the joint US-Israel Arrow weapon system, while enhancing the defence architecture of Israel.

Arrow 3 is scheduled to become operational in 2016.

Image: The Arrow 3 interceptor during a trial in 2013. Photo: courtesy of United States Missile Defense Agency.