Israel said Thursday that the U.S. government had approved its request to sell Germany its Arrow 3 missile defense system, setting in motion a $3.5 billion agreement that comes as Germany aims to upgrade its military amid the war in Ukraine.
Israeli officials described the sale as the country’s “largest ever” weapons deal. The Arrow 3, designed to intercept ballistic missiles armed with nuclear and other nonconventional warheads outside the earth’s atmosphere, was jointly developed by the government-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and its subsidiaries and Boeing of the United States, in cooperation with the missile defense agencies of the two countries.
The Arrow 3 is considered a crucial element of Israel’s arsenal in its effort to be able to defend itself against enemies like Iran.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, Germany has made a U-turn in its military-averse policy. Days after the Russian invasion, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the establishment of a 100 billion euro, or about $109 million, fund aimed at modernizing the German armed forces. Last year, Germany announced that it would buy F-35 fighter planes from the U.S. manufacturer Lockheed Martin to update its air force.
With the American approval of the Arrow 3 deal, officials from the Israeli and German defense ministries can move toward signing a letter of commitment. Once the details of the agreement are finalized and approvals from both Parliaments are obtained, a full contract will be ready to sign by the end of 2023, according to an Israeli government statement.
Israel’s minister of defense, Yoav Gallant, said in the statement that the deal would “contribute to Israel’s force buildup and economy.” Part of the proceeds, the government said, would be dedicated to bolstering Israeli defense systems. The United States did not immediately comment on the announcement.
Israeli officials said the Arrow 3 deal would further strengthen military relations between Israel and Germany and reinforce the Israeli strategic alliance with the United States and partnerships with its industrial base. Components for the Arrow system manufactured for Israel would also be produced for Germany.
The Arrow 3 represents the top tier of Israel’s multilayered air defense system, which has received substantial funding from the United States and includes the Iron Dome and David’s Sling systems, which intercept less sophisticated, shorter-range rockets like those fired into Israel from Gaza.
The Arrow 2, an earlier version of the system, intercepts ballistic missiles higher up, but is slower than the Arrow 3, which can also maneuver in space, according to Israeli officials.
As Ukraine has pushed for weapons aid internationally, Israel has tried to maintain a delicate balancing act, helping Kyiv mainly in the civilian sphere while avoiding provoking Russia. Russia maintains a military presence in Syria, where Israel often conducts airstrikes against Iranian and pro-Iranian targets.
Israel has said that it would help Ukraine with the technology to build an alert system for incoming rockets or missiles, share intelligence on drones and provide humanitarian aid, but would not provide it with air defenses like the Iron Dome system.
Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting.