— Defense and industry leaders here anxiously are awaiting the results of a study pitting
‘s favored Arrow-3 interceptor against a land-based version of the Pentagon’s Standard Missile-3 (SM-3).

If the report endorses the SM3 as the interceptor of choice for
‘s Upper Tier missile defense network, it could lead to the first international purchase of the landbased version of the midcourse defender developed for the U.S. Navy by Raytheon and the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency.

But in
, the stakes appear to be much higher. In interviews here, defense and industry leaders said rejection of the Arrow3 would jeopardize the future of a critical segment of
‘s defense industrial base and harm the nation’s operational and technological ability to adapt to changing threats.

“The entire Israeli defense establishment is behind Arrow-3. It’s specifically tailored to our operational needs; it naturally fits into our supporting infrastructure,” said Uzi Rubin, former director of the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) Israel Missile Defense Organization. “Without it, the country as a whole will lose proficiency in key aspects of the longrange missile defense mission.”
reluctantly agreed to the joint study as part of bilateral discussions over MoD’s planned Upper Tier interceptor and associated programs aimed at countering
‘s anticipated arsenal of nuclear-tipped, long-range missiles. The analysis of alternatives follows a 2007 bilateral report that ruled out the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.

Missile defense experts from the two countries met last week at the U.S. Army’s Space and Strategic Missile Defense Command in
, for the study’s final phase, known as AOA. Preliminary recommendations should be ready in time for a planned visit here next month by U.S. Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, to be hosted by PinhasBuchris, director-general of
‘s MoD.

Missile Defense Agency spokesman Richard Lehner said the AOA was a joint effort to compare cost, performance and schedule of the U.S. SM-3 and the Israeli Arrow-3.

While the study is expected to be completed later this summer, “no date has been set for a decision on a preferred technology,” Lehner said.

Notional vs. Operational

defense and industry sources emphasize the wide maturity gap between the operational SM-3 and the Arrow-3, which many dismissed as a notional, paper missile. According to Raytheon’s Web site, the SM-3 has amassed 12 successful intercepts, including November’s simultaneous destruction of two ballistic missiles and the unprecedented Feb. 20 kill of a defunct

Nevertheless, those sources concede that there will be significant costs to terrestrialize SM-3 and ensure its interoperability with Israeli firecontrol radar, battle management control and supporting infrastructure developed for the existing Arrow-2.

“That’s the whole purpose of the AOA, to assess how to cost-effectively integrate this proven, extremely capable midcourse interceptor into
‘s national missile defense network,” a Pentagon source said. “Remember, there’s already a de facto land-based version of SM-3, and it’s mobile. When we launch in tests from our site in
New Mexico
, we launch from land.” Israeli sources are quick to dispute characterizations of Arrow3 as a notional missile, insisting that the project is already four years into a preliminary design review.

“Since early 2007, we determined we have a reasonable solution. But in parallel, out of respect and deference to our U.S. allies, we entered earnestly into these serious comparative studies … first with [the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system] and now with SM-
an Israeli defense source said. “We’re all awaiting the AOA results and the position the Pentagon will take … we all know
will not have an upper tier without generous funding support from

The Arrow-3 design features sensors that swivel to help guide the kill vehicle to its target. The unique concept, developed by the MLM Division of Israel Aerospace Industries, allows for a much smaller and cheaper missile, sources here said. They said that Arrow-3 is designed to be shorter, but more squat, than Arrow-2; be about one-third as large as SM-3; and cost about one-third as much.

Officials with Israel Aerospace Industries and
‘s Ministry of Defense declined to comment on the matter.