Israel said it carried out a joint missile test launch with the U.S. in the Mediterranean Sea, raising regional tensions already heightened by the Syria crisis and sending international markets tumbling.
“Today, the Israel missile defense organization and the U.S. missile defense agency completed a successful flight test” of the new version of the Sparrow target missile, the Israeli army said in an e-mailed statement. “This is the first flight out test of this new version of the Sparrow, and was conducted at Israeli test range over the Mediterranean Sea.”
The test was launched at 9:15 a.m. Israeli time, the army said. Russia’s state-run news service RIA Novosti first reported the detection of a ballistic missile launch in the Mediterranean more than an hour before Israel acknowledged the test. Brent crude climbed and European stocks fell after the Russian media report.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the test showed that Israel’s defense is built on an “iron wall, iron dome and iron will.”
“These are the things that give us the strength to defend ourselves, and to anyone who is thinking to attack us -- it’s not worthwhile,” Netanyahu said.
The Israeli military said the Sparrow launch was done in coordination with a test of its Arrow anti-missile defense system, which successfully detected and tracked the target.
The Sparrow is designed to simulate ballistic missiles for use in testing missile-defense systems, and that’s what probably misled the Russians, said retired Brigadier-General Shlomo Brom, former head of the Israeli military’s Strategic Planning Division.
“Normally, this kind of test wouldn’t be publicly announced, so Israel was probably forced to do so by the Russian reports,” Brom, now senior Research Fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, said in a phone interview. “This test wasn’t necessarily directly connected with the Syrian situation. When you have a new version of the Sparrow, it has to be tested, and it’s part of the general upgrading of Israel’s missile-defense systems, which have more to do with concerns about Iran than the current Syrian situation.”
Israel’s defense capabilities depend on new technology systems that must be tested, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in remarks broadcast on Army Radio. Today’s missile test was successful, he added.
The main contractor for the development of the Sparrow is Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., and the main contractor of the Arrow is Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd., together with Boeing Co. (BA:US), the army said.
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