Israel carried out a successful test of its missile-interceptor system on Friday when an Arrow II missile downed an incoming rocket designed to simulate an Iranian Shahab-3, the defense ministry said.
The test, the latest in a series, came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel could not accept the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran, though he steered clear of threatening military action against the Islamic Republic.
Israeli security sources have told Reuters that the Arrow II system developed jointly with the United States is aimed at boosting the Jewish state’s preparedness against what it sees as a threat of a future missile strike from Iran.
The Shahab-3, which Iran says has a range of 1,250 miles, is seen by Israel as the main weapon which would be used to target its territory.
Tehran insists its nuclear program is for energy needs only and that the Shahab is intended as a deterrent. Israel is widely believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power.
Israel’s Defense Ministry said the test was to scrutinize the Arrow II’s improved intercept capabilities. A land-based Arrow successfully destroyed an incoming aircraft-fired missile simulating a Shahab-3, a Defense Ministry source said.
The source said the target missile had a trajectory more closely resembling the Iranian missile than in previous tests.
The Arrow is the world’s only system capable of intercepting missiles at atmospheric level, an advantage considered key to prevent devastating fallout from non-conventional warheads.
Independent experts estimate the Arrow’s success rate at 95 percent but some doubt whether it would be reliable against a salvo of Shahab-3s.
“Israel, and not only Israel, cannot accept a situation in which Iran has nuclear weapons,” Sharon told reporters on Thursday. “We are also taking all the necessary preparations to be ready for this kind of situation.”
But Sharon reaffirmed Israel’s support for diplomatic efforts, led by the United States and the European Union, to curb a uranium enrichment program in Iran, a country that has called for the destruction of the Jewish state.