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Explained: How Israel succeeded in blocking Iran's unprecedented attack with its arrow defence system

Israel celebrated its effective air defences following an unprecedented assault by Iran, claiming that it, along with its allies, intercepted 99% of over 300 drones and missiles directed towards its territory.

Explained How Israel succeeded in blocking Iran's unprecedented attack with its arrow defence system snt
First Published Apr 14, 2024, 12:40 PM IST

Israel celebrated its effective air defences following an unprecedented assault by Iran, claiming that it, along with its allies, intercepted 99% of over 300 drones and missiles directed towards its territory. However, regional tensions persist, with concerns of potential escalation in the event of an Israeli retaliatory strike.

Iran initiated the attack in retaliation to an incident widely attributed to Israel, targeting an Iranian consular building in Syria earlier this month, resulting in the deaths of two Iranian generals. Israel reported that Iran launched 170 drones, over 30 cruise missiles, and more than 120 ballistic missiles in the early hours of Sunday.

For years, Iran and Israel have been entangled in a shadowy conflict characterized by incidents such as the strike in Damascus. However, Sunday's attack, which triggered air raid sirens across Israel, represents the first instance of Iran directly launching a military assault on Israel, despite decades of hostility dating back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Also read: Iron defences of Israel thwarted Iran's retaliatory attacks (WATCH)

Following the attack, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) stated, "Dozens of surface-to-surface missile launches from Iran were identified approaching Israeli territory. The IDF Aerial Defence Array successfully intercepted the majority of the launches using the Arrow Aerial Defence System, together with Israel's strategic allies, before they crossed into Israeli territory." 

"We intercepted 99% of the threats launched to the territory of Israel. It's a very significant strategic success," Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a short message on X, formerly Twitter: “We intercepted. We blocked. Together, we will win.”

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant expressed gratitude for the outcomes and acknowledged the support of the United States and other nations. However, he cautioned that the situation was still unfolding.

“This campaign is not over yet. We need to remain vigilant … and to prepare for any scenario,” he said in a video statement. “At the same time, we blocked the first wave (of attacks), and we did it with great success.”

Videos circulating on social media depict the Arrow defence system, alongside the Iron Dome system, intercepting airborne threats. Explosions illuminate the night sky across Israel, indicating ongoing tensions between regional powers with no signs of easing.

All about Israel's Arrow Defence System

Israel's Aerospace Industries, in partnership with the US Missile Defence Agency, developed the Arrow Defence System, a surface-to-surface missile system serving as a crucial component of Israel's multi-layered air defence network. Originating in the late 1980s through collaborative efforts between Israel and the US, the Arrow 1 system underwent extensive testing, with at least seven flight tests conducted during the 1990s. Subsequent advancements led to the creation of the Arrow 2, a lighter missile variant that entered service in 2000.

The introduction of Arrow 2 missiles into Israel's air defence arsenal provided the capability to intercept short and medium-range missiles using a hit-and-kill approach in the upper atmosphere, aiming to neutralize threats before they reach their descent stage.

In tandem with the Arrow Defence System, Israel employs a layered defence strategy involving Iron Dome and David's Sling. Iron Dome, battle-proven and actively deployed, specializes in intercepting drones and short-range threats. While highly effective within its short range, Iron Dome's coverage is limited.

To address medium-to-long-range threats, Israel relies on David's Sling, an interceptor system designed for extended ranges beyond Iron Dome's reach. This multi-layered defence network underscores Israel's commitment to safeguarding its airspace against diverse aerial threats.

According to Ali Vaez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group, the purpose of the slow-moving drones is to disrupt radar systems in Israel, thus ensuring that subsequent missiles can bypass defences and strike their intended targets. This tactic aims to prevent the embarrassment of all projectiles being intercepted, preserving the effectiveness of the attack.

Look into how Israel's Arrow Defence System works

The Arrow 2 system, integrated into Israel's air defence arsenal in 2000, represents a milestone in intercepting long-range threats within the atmosphere. Its successor, the advanced Arrow 3 system, is designed to neutralize targets in the exo-atmosphere, thus intercepting ballistic missiles before they enter the re-entry phase.

With a two-stage solid-propellant booster, the Arrow 3 rocket achieves speeds of Mach 9, facilitating rapid response to incoming threats. The defence system comprises a missile launcher, the EL/M-2080 Green Pine fire control radar (FCR), a Hazelnut Tree Launch Control Center (LCC), and a Citron Tree battle management center. The Green Pine radar offers long-range detection capabilities and can engage multiple targets simultaneously, with a maximum capacity of intercepting 14 targets. Additionally, it is resilient against electronic jamming.

Upon detecting incoming threats, real-time data regarding the trajectory and speed of the target are transmitted to the control center. If a strategic target, such as cities or military installations, is identified, the missile is promptly launched. The vertically launched missile utilizes its finned kill vehicle to direct its blast towards the designated target. In the event of a miss, the fragmentation warhead can detonate within 40 meters of the target.

The Arrow rocket leverages Kinetic Energy as a destructive force, with its hypersonic speed making it potentially adaptable for anti-satellite purposes. The system is interoperable with the US Patriot Missile Defence System, enhancing its overall effectiveness. Launch options include silos and canisters, with each launcher accommodating up to six missiles.

Fielded in 2015, the Arrow 3 system was recently employed in November to successfully intercept and destroy a ballistic missile launched by Houthi rebels over the Red Sea. By neutralizing threats in the exo-atmosphere, the Arrow 3 system provides a crucial layer of defence against long-range missile attacks, as evidenced by footage circulating on social media platforms depicting its interception of Iranian missiles.

Unlike conventional rockets that utilize liquid or gas propulsion for hit-and-kill technology, the Arrow 3 employs a conventional rocket motor, allowing for trajectory adjustments after launch. Despite being the latest addition to Israel's defence arsenal, in April 2021, Israel acknowledged its failure to intercept Syrian missiles on several occasions.

The United States has played a significant role in funding the development of the Arrow 2 system, contributing approximately half of the annual development costs. As of 2020, the total US financial support for the Arrow Weapon System surpassed $3.7 billion, underscoring the strong partnership between the two countries in bolstering Israel's defence capabilities.

Also read: 'Threatens peace and security in the region...' India seeks restraint after Iran attacks Israel

In a statement carried late Saturday by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard acknowledged launching “dozens of drones and missiles towards the occupied territories and positions of the Zionist regime.”

In a later statement, the Revolutionary Guard issued a direct warning to the US. “The terrorist U.S. government is warned any support or participation in harming Iran’s interests will be followed by decisive and regretting response by Iran’s armed forces,” the statement said.


Iran had pledged retaliation following the April 1 airstrike in Syria, which Tehran attributed to Israel. Israel has refrained from commenting on the incident.

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