FILE PHOTO: An anti-missile system operates after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel April 14, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

By Dan Williams

 – Israel’s repelling of a massive Iranian drone and missile salvo was fully coordinated with the Pentagon, which had a U.S. operational liaison officer in the control room of the Arrow ballistic air defence system, a senior Israeli official said.

The United States, along with Britain, France and Jordan, helped Israel intercept the bulk of the weekend barrage and potentially stave off escalation between the regional enemies.

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At least half of the hundreds of pilotless one-way planes, cruise missiles and surface-to-surface missiles, which Israel said carried a total of 60 tonnes of explosives, were shot down by Israeli warplanes and aerial shields, according to local media.

Israeli officials said much of the work was done by their Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 high-altitude defence systems, which were developed jointly with the Pentagon and Boeing Co BA.N..

Arrow’s interceptor missiles cost between $2 million and $3.5 million a piece, according to Israeli industry sources.

Moshe Patel, director of missile defence at Israel’s Defence Ministry, said Arrow and lower-altitude interceptors were synced with counterpart U.S. systems in the region.

“The systems share information, for a joint picture of the sky, and the sky was certainly busy,” Patel told Channel 12 TV.

“Afterward, there is also coordination in battle doctrine. An American officer sits in the control room of the Arrow weapons system and essentially conducts the coordination with the U.S. systems, shoulder-to-shoulder.”

There was no immediate comment from U.S. Central Command, which oversees Middle East operations. On Sunday, it said U.S. forces destroyed more than 80 of the drones and at least six of the ballistic missiles aimed at Israel.

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Israel said 99% of all the projectiles were downed in time, limiting the toll to injuries to one person and damage to one military base. That surprised even Zvika Haimovitch, a retired brigadier-general who formerly commanded Israel’s air defences.

“(This was) well-synchronized and coordinated between all the elements – the air, the ground forces – and, yes, to be honest it is a great percentage and much more than we expected if you would have asked me three days before,” he told Reuters.

“But we need to be sure that we will be ready for the next time because for sure there’ll be a next time,” he said. “We need to take as an assumption that the Iranians will do their homework next time and will try to challenge our systems. That means we need to be one step before and not after our enemies.”

Daniel Gold, director of weapons development at Israel’s Defence Ministry, told Channel 12 television that work was already under way on more advanced Arrow models 4 and 5.

Arrow 3 shoots down incoming ballistic weapons above the atmosphere, using a detachable warhead that slams into the target in space.

The Maariv newspaper reported that Arrow 3 downed 110 missiles outside Israeli air space, at a potential cost of up to $385 million. The Israeli military had no immediate comment on that. Asked on Army Radio how much the interceptions had cost Israel, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said he did not know.

Mindful of the need for thrift in the face of foes on several fronts, Israel in 2022 said it was developing a laser-based missile shield to deliver shoot-downs as cheap as $2 each.

“I believe that the laser will be in the next few years one of our main solutions in dealing with a variety of threats – rockets, missiles, drones, UAVs and more,” Haimovitch said.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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