TEL AVIV: Israel is ready to conduct the first test of the Arrow 3 missile defense system, a state-owned defense contractor announced.
"The initial trial of the advanced Arrow 3 will be performed in the near future to confirm the interceptor's effectiveness," Mr Itzhak Kaya, the head of the Arrow Missile Program at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), said in a military and aviation exhibition Thursday near Tel Aviv.
"A series of different tests will be run to establish the system's high level of reliability within a short time," a statement quoted him as saying.
Mr Kaya said that Arrow 3, which utilizes a radar system named "Green Pine", is "more capable than ever" to deal with future threats. In limited tests conducted a few weeks ago, he said, the system demonstrated improved identification and tracking of incoming missiles "with high levels of certainty", reported Xinhua.
Asked whether planned cuts to Israel's defense budget would delay completion of the system's development and its acquisition by the Israeli military, Kaya said that the programme was "on track, meeting expectations as a high priority defense system… As far as I know, there is no threat to the program's future".
The Israel Air Force currently deploys two Arrow 2 batteries, with a third on the way.
Arrow 3, which is slated to comprise the upper tier of Israel's missile defenses, is scheduled to enter service in 2015.
A top Israeli missile defense expert recently echoed Mr Kaya's assurance regarding Arrow 3, saying that the system is capable of protecting Israeli territory from an Iranian long-range missile barrage.
"There is no such thing as 100 per cent defense, but the Arrow is capable of providing adequate defense against Iran's Shahab and Sajil ballistic missiles," Mr Arieh Herzog, who recently stepped down as director of the Defense Ministry's Homa Missile Defense Agency (HMDA), told The Jerusalem Post.
"The Iranians have the ability to launch barrages and that is an important part of their capabilities, but we are prepared and have the ability to intercept those barrages," Mr Herzog said. Other former and current defense officials have also voiced confidence in the Arrow system.
"It was developed to deal with missiles fired from distances of more than 1,000 km," Mr Uzi Rubin, the Arrow's chief developer and head of the HMDA between 1991 and 1999, told Xinhua Thursday.
He noted, however, that rockets from Syria posed a more imminent threat than those from Iran due to the former's proximity to Israel's northern border.
IAI's announcement and the officials' remarks came amid a media buzz in recent months that Israel is planning to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.