Israel destroyed a ballistic rocket outside the Earth’s atmospheric layer on Monday. It is the first time in history that an antiballistic missile successfully intercepted its target in space. The missile was launched by Houthi rebels from Yemen and was aimed at Israel. Israel Defense Forces used the Arrow anti-ballistic system. This joint American-Israeli program was first deployed in Israel more than 20 years ago.
Israel Defence Forces has not released many details regarding the intercept. However, it is known that the Air Force operates several Arrow 2 batteries, which use a hypersonic missile interceptor in order to destroy incoming missiles.
The Israeli Defence Ministry released a video that shows the moment of interception. In the false-color picture, the faint cylindrical shape is barely visible before the explosion.
The IDF stated that its air force intercepted the missile “at the best operational time and place”.
The missile was classified as a Qadr 110 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile. It is an improved version of the Iranian-designed Shahab-3 missile. The missile is 52 feet long, four feet wide, and weighs just under 37,400 pounds. It has a distance of about 1,200 miles. The missile can carry either a nuclear or conventional warhead, and it has a maximum warhead weight of 2,200 pounds.
The Arrow antiballistic missile system is designed to counter these threats. It can also intercept land-based or sea-based missiles. In 2017, the IDF successfully intercepted an S-200 Syrian surface-to-air rocket that was fired towards an Israeli aircraft, but it missed and went off-course to Israel. The missile weighs approximately 6,200 pounds and is 23 feet in length. It has a two-stage body. The missile has a MACH 9 top speed, which means that it can reach high hypersonic speeds. It also carries a high explosive warhead weighing 330 pounds.
In the last few weeks, Houthi rebels from Yemen declared war on Israel. They have also launched multiple attacks against Israel. The most notable incident was when Houthi Rebels launched a number of land-attack cruise missiles and drones that were intercepted by a US Navy Destroyer. USS Carney (a guided missile destroyer primarily tasked with anti-air defense) used SM-3 anti-aircraft missiles to take down Houthi drones and cruise missiles. The Israeli Air Force also used its newly acquired F-35I last Thursday to intercept and destroy a second Houthi cruise missile, marking another first for this war. The IDF did not reveal the details of the F-35I’s weapons, but it is believed that the F-35I has the AIM-9X short-range infrared-tracking air-to-air weapon, as well as the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile.
— Roni Sontani (@Roni_Sont) November 3, 2023
The recent events are important for several reasons. Israel’s ability to shoot down a hostile missile in space is a world first. This is a first for the world. It also shows that the Israelis and Americans have proven capabilities to intercept ballistic tracks inbound at hypersonic speed. It should therefore be able to interpret hypersonic cruise weapons developed by Russia or China.
Second, it is extremely concerning that the Houthi Rebels in Yemen possess very sophisticated weapons systems. The weapons that they possess are not able to reach the American homeland but they can target American assets and allies in the region. Some weapons can be fired as far as Baghdad and Israel in the north. Kuwait is also within reach. They can also hit several targets within the region with their cruise missiles, including naval vessels and civilian commercial traffic. As stated previously, the ballistic missiles supplied by Iran also have nuclear capability. Although the United States has not publicly confirmed that Iran is in possession of nuclear weapons, it’s possible for their Qadr 110 missile to be equipped with a device acquired through North Korea, Russia, or China. Although it would seem unlikely, this scenario is plausible. The recent events are a cause for concern, not only because of the historical aspects.