Israel is to declare the Arrow 2 anti-tactical ballistic missile system operational next month, when the air force deploys its first three batteries of the weapon.

The move follows recent US approval of negotiations between prime contractor Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and US companies on possible export of the system. Since the Arrow programme started in 1988, development funding has reached about $2 billion - 60% of which has been supplied by the USA. Washington recently allocated funds for the third battery.

An IAI source says talks on possible Arrow sales to the USA or its allies will start soon. "We will talk first to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon [as a local prime contractor], but I don't rule out talks with another US company," says the source. Turkey is believed to be one ally with which Israel has held discussions.

Other parts of the Arrow weapon system are the Elta Green Pine detection and fire control radar, and Tadiran Systems' Citron Tree fire-management system. A battery includes four launch vehicles each with six missiles.

The man-in-the-loop Arrow was developed after failed attempts to intercept Iraqi Al-Hussein ballistic missiles - modified SS-1 Scuds - launched against Israel in the 1991 Gulf War.

Source: Flight International