TEL AVIV --- A senior Israeli Air Force officer on Monday provided operational context to the unusual March 17 Arrow intercept of a Syrian SA-5 surface-to-air missile, which the jointly developed U.S.-Israel anti-ballistic missile system was not designed to fight.
Briefing reporters here, the officer said the Syrian SAM launched against Israeli fighter aircraft following a bombing mission in Syria “behaved like a ballistic threat” with “an altitude, range and ballistic trajectory” that mimicked the Scud-class targets the Arrow 2 interceptor was designed to kill.
“It wasn’t a Scud-class ballistic threat. But from our perspective, it doesn’t matter if it was a SAM. Once it behaved like a ballistic missile weighing tons and with a warhead of hundreds of kilograms, we couldn’t allow it to threaten our cities and towns,” the officer said.
When asked to identify the specific threat, the officer confirmed that the Arrow 2 had indeed scored its first operational intercept against a Syrian SA-5.
“In this case, it behaved just like a ballistic missile,” he added.
Another military officer later explained that in the aftermath of the March 17 attack, Syria launched several SA-5s in a southwestern direction toward Israel as Israeli F-15Is were returning home from “a successful strike mission against high-value assets” destined for Hezbollah arsenals across the border in Lebanon.
Contrary to criticism leveled over the weekend by former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who suggested that Israel should not have launched Arrow in order to preserve the country’s longstanding policy of ambiguity regarding periodic strike operations in Syria, the senior Israeli Air Force officer said Israeli air defenders didn’t think twice about acting against the approaching threat.
“No doubt about it, our mission is to detect and engage this threat, and that’s exactly what we did Friday morning. The mission of our air defense forces, under my responsibility, is to defend the people of Israel. And that was the case last week when Syria launched a missile that was seen as a ballistic threat to Israel,” the officer said. (end of excerpt)
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