US, Israel To Test 3 Missile Defence Systems

Jerusalem, April 15: Israel and its closest ally US will test three different ballistic missile defence (BMD) systems in an unprecedented joint exercise later this year to thwart any danger emanating from Iran’s pursuit for nuclear capability, a media report said.

The exercise named “Juniper Cobra”, which is to be held in Israel, is set to include the newly developed indigenous Arrow 2, America’s THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) and the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence systems, the ‘Jerusalem Post’ said, without mentioning the exact dates for the exercise.

The purpose of the exercise is to create the necessary infrastructure that would enable interoperability between Israeli and American BMD systems in case the US government decides to deploy them here in the event of a conflict with Iran, like it did ahead of the Gulf War in Iraq in 1991, Israeli defence officials told the daily.

The tests are likely to include the launching of interceptors from these missile defence systems.

Israel Air Force’s Air Defence Division, the US Missile Defence Agency and the US Military’s European Command (EUCOM) have held the ‘Juniper Cobra’ exercise for the past five years, but the forthcoming exercise will be the “most complex and extensive” till date, the report said.

Plans for the exercise were revealed in a testimony US Missile Defence Agency Director, Lt Gen Patrick J O’Reilly, gave to the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defence earlier this month, the paper said.

“The Juniper Cobra exercise between EUCOM and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) will be the fifth and most complex exercise yet designed,” O’Reilly had told the subcommittee.

“US ballistic missile defence elements such as the AN/TPY-2 (the American X-Band radar deployed in the Negev – YK), THAAD and Aegis BMD will participate in these flight tests and exercises to demonstrate the interoperability and develop operational tactics, techniques and procedures associated with this coalition architecture,” he said.

The Israel Air Force last week held its 17th test of the Arrow 2 interceptor, shooting down a missile mimicking an Iranian Shihab ballistic missile.

O’Reilly, in his testimony, had also said that in February the David Sling missile defence system underwent a successful “booster fly-out” test.

The exercise involved the successful launching of a missile by the system that Israel and the US are developing jointly to intercept medium-range missiles between 70 and 250 kms. The first intercept test of the system is scheduled to take place in 2010.