By Dan Williams, Reuters
JERUSALEM | Israel is upgrading its Arrow II ballistic missile shield in a U.S.-backed “race” against Iran, Syria and other regional enemies, a senior Israeli defense official said on Sunday.
The new “Block 4” generation of guided interceptor rockets, radars and technologies for synchronizing Arrow with U.S. systems was being installed in deployed Israeli batteries, a process that would take several weeks, the official said.
“The accuracy and the reach will be greater,” the official said of Arrow, which has been operational since 2000 and is designed to blow up incoming missiles at altitudes high enough for non-conventional warheads to disintegrate safely.
“It is part of the technological race in the region,” added the official, who declined to be named given the sensitivity of the issue.
Long jittery about Iran’s disputed nuclear program, Israel has more recently worried the Syrian insurgency could loosen Damascus’s hold on its chemical weapons and Scud missiles.
Israel has threatened to attack preemptively in both countries, a prospect that could trigger wider war and clash with Washington’s efforts to resolve the crises diplomatically.
The Pentagon and U.S. firm Boeing Co are partners in Arrow, an investment that the Obama administration hopes will help stay the Israelis’ hand.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said last week that Arrow, like a similar Israeli interceptor for short-range guerrilla rockets, Iron Dome, were “designed to prevent wars”.
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