JERUSALEM - Israel successfully tested its upgraded Arrow ballistic missile interceptor for the second time on Friday, pushing forward work on a US-backed defence against threats seen from Iran, Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas.
One of several elements of Israel's still-developing defence against missile attacks, Arrow III 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 also now held by their ally Hezbollah, another knock-on effect of Syria's civil war.
Friday's launch of an Arrow III interceptor missile over the Mediterranean sea was the second flight of the system, but did not involve the interception of any target, Israeli defence officials said. Israel deployed the previous version, Arrow II, more than a decade ago and says it has scored around a 90 per cent success rate in live trials.
"The Arrow III interceptor successfully launched and flew an exo-atmospheric trajectory through space," Israel's Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Yair Ramati, head of the ministry's Israel Missile Defence Organisation, told reporters that as part of the test, which was attended by US 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 III could be deployed by next year. The Pentagon and US firm Boeing are partners in the project run by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
Arrow is the long-range segment in Israel's three-tier missile shield. This also includes the successfully deployed "Iron Dome", which targets short-range rockets and mortar bombs favoured by Palestinian guerrillas in Gaza, and the mid-range "David's Sling", still under development. They can be deployed alongside US counterpart systems like the Aegis.