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Israel tests Arrow 3 missile shield with eye on Hezbollah

Israeli Ministry of Defense via EPA

An Arrow-3 interceptor missile launches from an Israeli military base at an undisclosed location on the Mediterranean Sea coast on Friday.

JERUSALEM - Israel successfully tested its upgraded Arrow missile interceptor for the second time on Friday, pushing forward work on a U.S.-backed defense against ballistic threats it sees from Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas as well as from Iran and Syria. 

One of several elements of an integrated Israeli aerial shield, Arrow 3 is designed to deploy kamikaze satellites - known as "kill vehicles" - that track and slam into ballistic missiles above the earth's atmosphere, high enough to safely disintegrate any chemical, biological or nuclear warheads. 

Iran and Syria have long had such missiles, and Israel believes some are now also possessed by their ally Hezbollah, whose growing arsenal in Lebanon, stocked in part by Damascus, preoccupies the Israelis as their most pressing menace. 

Friday's launch of an Arrow 3 interceptor missile over the Mediterranean was the second flight of the system, but did not involve the interception of any target, officials said. 

Israel deployed the previous version, Arrow 2, more than a decade ago, rating its success in live trials at 90 percent. 

"The Arrow 3 interceptor successfully launched and flew an exo-atmospheric trajectory through space," Israel's Defense Ministry said in a statement. 

Yair Ramati, head of the ministry's Israel Missile Defense Organisation, told reporters that as part of the test, which was attended by U.S. officials, the interceptor jettisoned its booster and "the kill vehicle continued to fly in space (and) conducted various maneuvers ... for a couple of minutes."

Israel predicts Arrow 3 could be deployed by next year. The Pentagon and Boeing are partners in the project run by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).