Jul 28, 2019

U.S. and Israel test missile defense system in Alaska

The U.S. and Israel conduct a missile defense system test in Alaska. Photo: Israel's Ministry of Defense/Twitter

The U.S. and Israel secretly performed 3 tests of the Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system over the past 2 weeks at Kodiak Island, Alaska. Israeli officials say the tests were successful and the Arrow 3 intercepted all incoming missiles outside of the atmosphere.

Why it matters: This was the biggest missile test the U.S. and Israel have performed on American soil. An Israeli military gag order on press reports of the tests was lifted at 4am ET Sunday, after all Israeli troops had left Alaska. The Arrow 3's main goal is to intercept long-range missiles from Iran, possibly in the future involving a nuclear warhead.

  • This is a huge technological achievement. The Arrow 3 is the most sophisticated anti-ballistic missile system in the world.

The big picture: The test needed to take place in Alaska because it contains relatively open airspace. This allows the countries to perform such missile tests without endangering civilian aviation.

  • The U.S. Department of Defense funded most of the missile test as part of the ongoing U.S. support for the Arrow anti-ballistic missile program, which has been under development for more than a decade. The test was so strategic that Israel's ambassador to Washington, D.C., Ron Dermer, secretly traveled to Alaska to attend parts of it.

What they're saying: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said at a Cabinet meeting Sunday that the Arrow 3 test shows Israel has the capability to act against the Iranian ballistic missile threat.

  • Senior Israeli defense officials said the test proves that Israel is several years ahead of the Iranians when it comes to missile technology.

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As regional tensions ratchet up, Iran has continued flight-testing its missile arsenal, most recently in last week's launch of a Shahab-3 ballistic missile.

Why it matters: Iran’s missile tests have both symbolic and practical value, helping advance military capabilities while also signaling prowess to domestic audiences and defiance to foreign powers. The Shahab-3 raises particular concerns, as it meets the range and payload thresholds to qualify as a nuclear-capable system.

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North Korea fires more short-range missiles off eastern coast

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North Korea fired 2 short-range ballistic missiles off its eastern coast early on Wednesday, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Why it matters: The projectiles did not pose a threat to the United States or its allies, a U.S. official told CNN, but North Korea nonetheless has appeared to have conducted its second missile test in a week. President Trump has repeatedly downplayed North Korea's missile tests since meeting Kim Jong-un at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) last month.

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Scoop: Trump tells advisers Israel should bar entry to Reps. Omar and Tlaib

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President Trump has told advisers he thinks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should use Israel's anti-boycott law to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from entering Israel, according to 3 sources familiar with the situation.

What he's saying: Trump's private views have reached the top level of the Israeli government. But Trump denies, through White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, ever giving any kind of directive to the Israelis. "The Israeli government can do what they want. It's fake news," Grisham said on Saturday.

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