As US action against the Syrian regime seems inevitable, the main burden of countering any reprisal by Syria falls on the Israeli air force (IAF).
The Syrian army is weak – especially after two years of internal war. The only real force is the country’s considerable arsenal of Scud missiles and different types of rockets.
In preparation, the IAF has redeployed its Iron Dome rocket interceptors, in addition to its Arrow-2 ballistic missiles interceptors, supplemented by Patriot anti-air missiles.
Israel has been building a multi-layered air defence system, and what already exists is now being deployed in its full capacity.
As the IAF is continuing to build its multi-layered system against rockets and missiles, this process will require much testing.
In recent years, all the live tests of the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Arrow ballistic missile interceptor involved the use of a target simulating an incoming ballistic missile.
This target was developed by Rafael – in fact, this family of Sparrow target missiles enables a variety of flight envelopes to be simulated.
As I reported on flightglobal.com, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is evaluating the use of the Rafael Sparrow line of air-launched targets for future intercept tests of ballistic missiles.
The Israeli company has signed a co-operation agreement with Raytheon for the marketing of its Sparrow missiles to the MDA and other countries.
The Israeli IAF magazine reports that Sparrow family is being upgraded to answer growing operational needs.
The most advanced in this line of targets is the Silver Sparrow – developed as part of the Arrow-3 interceptor programme. This interceptor was developed to defend Israel against long-range ballistic missiles.
The Silver Sparrow is the third generation of Rafael’s target missiles. The first was the Black Sparrow, followed by the Blue Sparrow and now the Silver Sparrow.
In 2011 the French press reported that the French air force used the Black Sparrow in a test of its Aster 30 surface-to-air missile.
American sources say the MDA plans to launch the Rafael Blue Sparrow target from a converted Lockheed L-1011 aircraft. This, to simulate salvos of ballistic missiles.
The L-1011 is capable of launching four Blue Sparrow targets simultaneously.
The Blue Sparrow can simulate bulk chemical or high-explosive warheads, and is equipped with a GPS/intertial navigation system.
The advanced target missile also has a post-boost three-axis attitude control system and mid-air pointing capability.
The MDA plans to use the air-launched targets in intercept tests using the SM-3 launched from US Navy Aegis vessels.