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Pentagon: Israel test-fires missile, U.S. helps

By CNN Staff
updated 11:52 AM EDT, Tue September 3, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: U.S. involvement in the test was "minor," Defense official says
  • Israel test-fired a Sparrow missile over the Mediterranean
  • The Pentagon says the test has "nothing to do" with any plans for Syria action

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(CNN) -- Israel test-fired a missile Tuesday morning in the Mediterranean Sea with help from the United States, the Pentagon confirmed.

The test comes amid region-wide jitters over U.S. talk of possible military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The U.S. Defense Department confirmed that it "provided technical assistance and support" for Israel's missile test.

But Pentagon spokesman George Little said the "test had nothing to do with United States' consideration of military action to respond" to Syria's alleged chemical weapons attack last month.

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"The test was long planned to help evaluate the Arrow Ballistic Missile Defense system's ability to detect, track, and communicate information about a simulated threat to Israel. The United States and Israel cooperate on a number of long-term ballistic missile defense development projects to address common challenges in the region," Little said in a statement.

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A U.S. Defense official added that U.S. involvement in the test -- which was planned and scheduled for more than a year -- was minor. While the test was a joint program, the Americans provided advice on how to build the target missile, explained the official.

The test is part of the joint U.S.-Israeli Arrow program. The United States funded $75 million of it this year, with an additional $52 million to be provided in 2014.

The Israelis are building a third phase of Arrow with U.S. help. This will be a high-altitude ballistic missile defense system more specifically capable of defending Israeli from a long-range Iranian or Syrian missile attack.

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Successful test, Israeli ministry says

The Israel Defense Ministry said the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency "completed a successful flight test of the new version of the Sparrow target missile."

"This is the first flight out test of this new version of the Sparrow, and was conducted at an Israeli test range over the Mediterranean Sea."

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The missile launch occurred around 9:15 a.m., the defense ministry said.

"The Arrow weapon system's Super Green Pine radar successfully detected and tracked the target while transferring the information to the Citron Tree battle management control system. All the elements of the system performed according to their operational configuration," the ministry said.

The Defense Ministry said the main contractor for the integration and development of the Sparrow is Rafael, an Israeli company. The main contractor of the Arrow weapon system is MLM of the Israeli Aerospace Industries in conjunction with Boeing.

Arieh Herzog, former head of Israel's missile defense program, was present at the Israeli air force test facility in central Israel when the test was conducted. He said one missile was launched.

Israel was testing a new version of its Sparrow, air-launched, target missile. Basically, he said, it was a test of the new "target" for Israel's long-range defense system.

The missile simulated a real, incoming, long-range missile such as what the Iranians have developed with North Korea, Herzog said.

American personnel from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency watched the test but didn't launch it, Herzog said. The missile was air-launched by Israeli aircraft, he said.

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Earlier, Russia announced that its early warning system detected the launch of two missiles in the sea. Russia's state-run news outlet RIA Novosti said the launch was detected Tuesday morning by radar in the southern Russian city of Armavir, citing a Defense Ministry spokesman.

"The targets' trajectories ran from the central to the eastern Mediterranean," RIA Novosti reported, citing the spokesman.

The targets fell into the sea, a diplomatic source in the Syrian capital of Damascus told RIA Novosti.

The news outlet later reported roles of Israel and the United States in the launches.

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CNN's Michael Schwartz and Barbara Starr contributed to this report

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