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‘Thumping’ THAAD, ‘Stifling’ S-400, Israel Sets Sight On Big European Deal For Its Powerful Air Defense Systems

As Russia and the US boast two of the world’s most powerful missile defense systems, S-400 and THAAD, European powerhouse Germany could opt for the Israeli Arrow 3 missile defense system over THAAD.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid confirmed during his visit to Germany on September 12 that the two countries were in talks about the possible export of the Arrow 3 missile defense system as part of Germany’s efforts to strengthen its armed forces in the wake of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Berlin has increased defense spending following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and has been providing aid and heavy weapons to the Ukrainian armed forces as part of international support for Ukraine’s war effort.

“Israel … will play a part in building Germany’s new defense force, mainly in the field of air defense,” Lapid told reporters, speaking alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The Arrow 3 missile is launched from Palmachim air base in central Israel on December 10, 2015. (Israeli Defense Ministry)

Lapid described their talks as leading to a “future possible deal” without going into the specifics of how many systems might be purchased by Germany or the costs involved.

Scholz said that Germany would bolster its defenses by acquiring more air defense systems in the future and called the Arrow 3 system a “high-performance offer” but also refrained from going into the details.

Also, a German government source told Reuters that “there is the plan to buy Arrow 3, but nothing is signed.”

Arrow 3 Missile Defense System

Produced by the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI), the Arrow 3 represents the uppermost tier of Israel’s layered missile defense array and is said to be capable of engaging any type of ballistic missile.

The most important element of the Arrow 3 system is its exoatmospheric interceptor, jointly developed by IAI and Boeing, which carries a kinetic kill vehicle intended to physically break the incoming ballistic missile from above the earth’s atmosphere so as to destroy it before it can pose a threat to anyone on the ground.

The Arrow 3 is an upgraded variant of the existing Arrow 2 air defense missile system, which lacks the exoatmospheric interceptor capability.

The Arrow missile defense systems use the Green Pine family of active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, developed by IAI’s Elta Systems, with the Arrow 3 using the ELM-2084 radar.

An Arrow 3 system comprises six missiles in individual erector-launchers tubes, and a single battery is expected to intercept more than five ballistic missiles within 30 seconds.

File Image: Arrow 3 Missile Defense System

The Arrow 3 can intercept ballistic missile threats at altitudes exceeding 100 kilometers and a reported range of up to 2,400 kilometers. The system entered operational service with Israeli Defense Forces in January 2017, and in March 2017, the system shot down a Syrian SA-5 surface-to-air missile (SAM).

Washington Could Block Arrow 3’s First Export Deal?

If the system is actually acquired by Germany, this would mark the first export sale of the Arrow 3. It would be bad news for Lockheed Martin’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which was also being considered by the German government.

File Image: THAAD Missile Defense System

Israeli officials are reportedly concerned that Washington could still block the Arrow 3 sale to Germany and pressure Berlin to buy the American air defense system instead.

This is because the Arrow 3 system has been developed with significant funding from the US, meaning the US government can veto any export of the system.

Reports suggest that the sale of the Arrow 3 system to Germany could open the doors of other European nations to the Israeli air defense system.

Considering Germany’s leading role in Europe and the increased defense spending by European governments amid the Ukraine conflict, many nations might want to buy the same defense system as Germany to have an integrated air defense with Berlin.

Israel’s Rafael-made Spyder air defense system has already been purchased by the Czech Republic for $627 million in an agreement signed in September 2021. The contract involves the sale of four Spyder batteries that are scheduled to be delivered by 2026.

In March, Finland also announced that it would purchase an air defense system from Israel.

Of the five companies to which the Finnish Defense Ministry sent invitations for preliminary bids, two were Israeli firms, the IAI and Rafael. Both firms reached the final rounds of negotiations. IAI is offering its Barak MX and Rafael its David’s Sling to the Nordic nation.

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