An experiment on the Arrow
An experiment on the Arrow Israel news photo: IDF spokesman

The next trial of the Arrow 3, Israel's main future anti-missile defense weapons system, has been postponed for an unexplained reason, according to a report in the US weekly Space News quoted by Globes.

Development of the Arrow 3 missile is already one year behind schedule. According to the "Space News' report, the flight trial that had been planned for this month has now been postponed until the end of the year.

Arrow 3 technical staff declined to specify the reason for the delay but it is reportedly "believed to be serious" because the missile has been returned from its launcher to an installation belonging to Israel Aerospace Industries, for repairs.

A Pentagon source told "Space News" that the flight trial, that was meant to be the first in the development of the Arrow 3, has been postponed "because of additional necessary work to solve a problem."

The Director of the Defense Ministry's Israel Missile Defense Organization, Yair Ramati, reportedly updated the U.S. Missile Defense Agency chief Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly about the latest problem at a conference in Berlin last week.

This was to be the first test of all the Arrow-3 systems. Subsystems have already been tested, reported UPI.

The two-stage missile being developed by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and the Boeing Co. of the United States will be Israel's main line of defense against Iran's growing arsenal of immediate-range Shehab-3 missiles and the more advanced Sejjil-2 weapons under development

The Arow-3 can reach twice the altitude of Arrow-2 and its second stage has its own propulsion unit that enables it to maneuver toward its target.

The Pentagon, which provides much of the funding for the joint program and has been seeking to persuade U.S. legislators that it's worth Congress investing taxpayers' money in the project, says Arrow-3 will be able to provide four times the coverage of Arrow-2.

According to UPI, Itzhak Kaya, who heads the Arrow program, said that recent testing involved simulated interceptions to evaluate Arrow-3's detection capabilities.

Neither of the first two Arrow variants has been used on combat and there have been concerns about its ability to counter a heavy salvo of Shehab or Sejjil missiles.

Uzi Rubin, considered one of the pre-eminent missile system analysts in the Middle East, recently said Arrow could cope with any missile fired by the Iranians.

"I can't say that every incoming will be known down," he told IDF Radio. "There isn't 100 percent protection and not everything is a success.

"But for every single missile coming from Iran there's a single Arrow missile capable of intercepting it one for one."

Rubin, a former air force brigadier general, was head of Israel's Missile Defense Organization in 1991-99 and oversaw development of the Arrow series.

"Iran has between 300 and 400 Shehab-3 missiles it can fire at Israel," he said.

Rubin added that Iran's aerospace industry has significantly improved the Shehab's accuracy from "a marked target that could cover a few kilometers to just a few hundred meters."

That, according to the report, "would make the Iranian missiles a much greater threat to Israeli airbases and military installations, as well as the national infrastructure, than previously thought."