After multiple reports indicating that Germany has been involved in negotiations with Israel on purchasing the Arrow-3 air defense system, Berlin appears to have finally made up its mind.
According to the finance ministry’s procurement documents accessed by Reuters, Germany has plans to purchase Israel’s Arrow-3 missile defense system for almost 4 billion euros ($4.30 billion). The purchase is considered part of a larger overhaul of the German Armed Forces after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The documents suggest that the German Parliament will reportedly ask lawmakers to release advance payments of up to 560 million euros as early as next week. Berlin has decided to sign a government-to-government agreement with Israel on purchasing the Arrow-3 system before the end of the year.
According to these papers, if the deal fails, Germany will have to forfeit all or part of the advance payments to Israel because they would have been used to cover its costs. If it goes through, Berlin will receive the Arrow-3 system by the fourth quarter of 2025.
Neither Germany nor Israel has made an official statement on this development yet. If the deal goes through, Germany will become the first-ever export customer of the system.
In September last year, on his visit to Germany, the then-Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid confirmed that the talks were on the export of the system but stopped short of specifying how many of the Arrow-3s would be sold to Berlin. At the time, media reports had predicted a potential price tag of around $2 billion.
As for Germany, the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed its entire security calculus and triggered a massive military modernization. After watching the war unfold in Ukraine over the last 15 months, Germany has visibly turned its attention to bolstering its missile defense.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany was looking to bolster its ground-based air defenses in the future and is “very keen to work with Israel on that.” The German leader described the Arrow 3 as a “very effective product.”
The Arrow-3’s interceptor component is made to transport a kinetic death vehicle outside the Earth’s exo-atmosphere, where it physically collides with the target and decimates it during its mid-course flight phase.
Why Does Germany Want Arrow-3?
The Arrow missile defense typically comprises the top layer of Israel’s missile defense system, consisting of the long-range Arrow-3 missiles and the Iron Dome short-range rocket interceptor. The Arrow-3, for one, can reach and destroy any non-conventional warhead at a safe altitude.
Unlike the missile defense systems like the Patriot in Germany’s arsenal, the Arrow-3 is designed to intercept ballistic missiles outside the Earth’s atmosphere. The deployment of the system in Western Europe will give a unique capability to the region, according to military experts.
Moreover, the war in Ukraine has also exposed the shortage of ground-based air defense systems within NATO, including the Raytheon Patriot units.
Germany had about 36 Patriot units during the height of the Cold War. However, the German forces are down to some 10-12 now, with some deployed in other states, including Slovakia. One unit of Patriot has also been delivered to Ukraine.
Although Germany supplied the advanced IRIS-T air defense system to Ukraine, which has garnered much praise in combat, the country only recently announced its intention to buy eight IRIS-T units for the German army.
On top of these advanced air defense systems in its arsenal, the Arrow-3 will be a crucial addition. While Patriot and IRIS-T cover the medium layer of air defense, Arrow-3 would seemingly protect the higher layer.
The Arrow 3 would serve as a protective shield from attacks by mainly Russian ballistic missiles. The Kremlin is still making significant investments in its arsenal of strategic missiles, including a new generation of ICBMs.
One of these is the Sarmat heavy ICBM, which will replace the SS-18 Satan from the Cold War and be able to carry up to 10 MIRVs (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles).
The mobile and silo-based RS-24 Yars, which has numerous warheads, is another new addition to the Russian ICBM force. The capabilities of the Arrow 3 extend into shorter-range systems, which is a significant problem.
With Russian propagandists often threatening a missile strike on European states, including Germany, having an effective defense against those threats becomes imperative.
All types of ballistic missiles, particularly the most lethal intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, traveling at extraordinarily high altitudes and speeds, are the main targets of the Arrow 3.
Ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads or biological or chemical payloads can be targeted outside the atmosphere, adding an extra layer of security.
Moreover, German Chancellor announced in August last year that his country has decided to invest significantly in air defense in the coming years, creating a German-led air shield for Europe. The purchase of Arrow-3 air defense could further advance those ambitions for Berlin.
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