The first “Made in Mississippi” Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile canister was delivered to Israel Aerospace Industries during an Aug. 27 ceremony at Stark Aerospace in Columbus.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and several members of Mississippi’s Congressional delegation were at the ceremony, along with senior officials from Israel’s Ministry of Defense and Consul General Lior Haiat from Israel’s consulate in Miami.
Stark was recently chosen to manufacture canisters for the Arrow-3, an integral component to the latest generation of missile defense systems developed by IAI, Stark’s parent company.
The canisters hold the anti-ballistic missiles that are fired at incoming rockets and missiles. Each launcher can hold six canisters.
The Arrow Weapon System is the upper tier defense system against ballistic missile threats and is the world’s first operational, national missile defense system. IAI is the prime contractor for Arrow and responsible for Arrow 2 and 3 interceptor development, production and system integration.
The Arrow-2 system is for low-altitude intercepts. The Arrow-3 interceptors are faster, have a longer range than Arrow 2 and can operate at much higher altitudes, including intercepting missiles whose trajectories go beyond the atmosphere into space.
Moshe Patel, director of the Israel Ministry of Defense, said the ministry “is proud to mark here in Mississippi another achievement representing fruitful long term cooperation between the U.S. and Israel for building a strong protective shield to the State of Israel against missiles and rockets.”
He said that partnership “created a world-class interceptor that, together with the Arrow 2, expands the ballistic missile defense envelope provided to the State of Israel. Stark joins many other U.S. vendors and manufacturers that do an exceptional work and produce high-end components to our Arrow, David’s Sling and Iron Dome systems.”
The Arrow-3, he added, is for longer-range threats, such as Syria or Iran.
Boaz Levy, general manager and executive vice president of IAI Missiles and Space Group, said the event “symbolizes the full cooperation between Israel and the U.S. Stark’s missile defense capabilities enable IAI to manufacture parts of the Arrow Weapon System in Mississippi and serve as a basis for future expansion on missile defense initiatives and other activities.”
It was noted during the ceremony that the U.S.-funded project benefits both nations, with Israel getting the most advanced systems while providing jobs in the U.S. “We are combining the defense of Israel with bringing jobs to places like Mississippi,” Patel said. “It’s a win-win situation.”
Bryant said 70 percent of the materials in manufacturing the canister “come from Mississippi, so you’re looking at Mississippi steel and a lot of Mississippi technology that goes in this.”
Radar systems protecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem also come from Mississippi, Bryant said.
In November, Bryant will travel to Israel on a trade mission for the third time in four years. He generally also speaks at security and technology conferences while in Israel, and in March the state hosted an international homeland security conference in Biloxi that was dominated by Israeli companies.
Rep. Gregg Harper said Stark “is utilizing a strong and talented Mississippi workforce to defend Israel from shared foreign adversaries throughout the Middle East and beyond.”
Building the canisters in Mississippi also helps Israel on the world stage. According to the site Breaking Defense, when the U.S. funds development of a weapons system for Israel, it has a veto over any Israeli export of the system, to prevent competition against U.S. systems. Being able to say these systems are made in the U.S. is a major advantage.
Also, new restrictions mean Israel has to spend U.S. aid in dollars and will eventually not be able to convert the aid into shekels to pay Israeli companies, leading Israeli companies to have U.S. affiliates and partners.
During Haiat’s visit to the state for the ceremony, he also toured Mississippi State University, including Davis Wade Stadium. “There’s no visit to Mississippi without a little football,” he remarked.
He also visited Tupelo, visiting Elvis Presley’s birthplace and dining with Mayor Jason Shelton at Elvis’ old haunt, Johnnie’s Drive In. Haiat also toured Temple B’nai Israel, the local congregation.