An Israeli Defense destroyed a ballistic missile above the earth’s atmosphere, “a notable technological achievement, but one with potentially serious legal and geopolitical implications.”
Early last week, Israel’s Arrow 2 missile system successfully intercepted and destroyed a suborbital ballistic missile suspected of launching from Yeme…The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) shot down an Iranian-manufactured ballistic missile using its Arrow 2 anti-missile system, Haaretz reported. The incident happened on Tuesday, October 31, with Yemeni forces possibly targeting Eilat, an Israeli city on the coast of the Red Sea. The Telegraph claims the missile was intercepted and destroyed above the Kármán line, which at 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level is widely recognized as the boundary of space.
Ballistic missile defense systems generally engage threats within the Earth’s atmosphere. While anti-satellite tests have demonstrated higher-altitude capabilities, such as those conducted by the U.S., Russia, China, and India, these have been distinct from intercepting a missile in flight. Ballistic missile defense systems generally engage threats within the Earth’s atmosphere. While anti-satellite tests have demonstrated higher-altitude capabilities, such as those conducted by the U.S., Russia, China, and India, these have been distinct from intercepting a missile in flight.
Space has become the new theater of war after Israel shot down a rocket soaring ‘outside of Earth’s atmosphere.’
The Israel Defense (IDF) revealed last week that its Arrow missile defense system took down an ‘aerial threat’ allegedly fired by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. While details are sparse, the accepted boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space is 62 miles above the surface, known as the Kármán line. Space has become the new theater of war after Israel shot down a rocket soaring ‘outside of Earth’s atmosphere”…while details are sparse, the accepted boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space is 62 miles above the surface, known as the Kármán line.
IDF said the Arrow intercepted a surface-to-surface missile in the Red Sea fired towards its territory after the rocket traveled nearly 1,000 miles from Yemen… Arrow, jointly built with the US, was first tested in 2013, followed by another in 2014 and again in 2019 over the state of Alaska amid concern about Iran’s continuous nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The defense system is designed to intercept ballistic missiles outside the Earth’s atmosphere, allowing it to take down Houthi’s rocket last month.
Arrow provides hypersonic capabilities and can defend a vast area, providing a comprehensive defense of strategic sites and large populated areas. It can also blast long-range threats, including those carrying weapons of mass destruction, far away from the targets. The missile system uses hit-to-kill technology to destroy incoming missiles by launching vertically and moving toward the estimated interception point. The kill vehicle is found once the hostile warhead is identified and the target is close enough. It is believed that Houthi launched a laser-guided Barkan 3 long-range missile, which avoided detection for other defense layers, forcing Israel to use its Arrow. CEO and President of the Israel Aerospace Industries, Boaz Levy, said: ‘The Arrow system […] demonstrated today that Israel possesses the most advanced technology for defense against ballistic missiles at various ranges.’
Legal and Geopolitical Implications
Gizmodo went on to report:
he Outer Space Treaty (OST), formally known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, prohibits the placement of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit around Earth, on celestial bodies, or stationing them in outer space. It does not explicitly forbid conventional weapons, nor does it address the interception of missiles in space. Accordingly, the destruction of a conventional ballistic missile by the Arrow system—even if it occurs above the Kármán line—does not appear to breach the OST. McDowell agrees, saying: “As far as I know it does not really violate any treaties.”
Importantly, there’s also Article 3 of the OST to consider, which states that parties to the treaty shall act “in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations,” which, in its Article 51, provides for the right of self-defense.
The ballistic missile very likely did not come anywhere close to Earth orbit, so unlike those aforementioned anti-satellite tests, this incident probably didn’t generate any dangerous orbital debris. Indeed, “implications on space safety will primarily depend on the altitude of interception,” said Hrozensky. “The occurrence and increase of interceptions especially at higher altitudes (e.g. reached by ICBMs) would most definitely have negative and concerning effects on the safety and sustainability of the space environment,” he explained.
This incident demonstrates not just an advancement in Israel’s defensive technology—it establishes a new paradigm in strategic military considerations. Nations around the world might have to reassess their offensive and defensive capabilities in light of this development, potentially affecting international security and arms control discourse.
Additional OODA Loop Resources
Commercial Space: Innovation, Regulation, and International Collaboration: The upcoming OODAcon 2023 panel – “The Space Edge – Defining New Opportunities, Economies, and Risks” – will dig deep into the emerging opportunities, economies, and risks associated with the rapid development of space-based technologies, resource acquisition, and shift from the public to private sector. After decades of stagnation, space innovation keeps pushing the boundaries of the possible with new firsts emerging on a monthly basis. Following is a compilation of OODA Loop original analysis and resources on the revolution evolution of the Commercial Space industry sector.
The Future of Space: National Security, Cybersecurity, and AI/ML: Exploring the new national security and economic realities of The New Space Rush will be the closing keynote discussion with Lisa Costa, the Chief Technology and Innovation Officer of the US Space Force at OODAcon 2023. Following is a compilation of recent OODA Analysis of the future of space, national security, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence and machines learning – the implications of which OODA CTO Bob Gourley will be discussing with Costa next week.
Space Exploration Milestones of Note in 2023: A compilation of the space exploration milestones featured here at OODA Loop in 2023.
For additional OODA Loops News Briefs and Original Analysis on Space Exploration, go to OODA Loop | Space
The rapid pace of innovation in space is producing real capabilities which can be leveraged for businesses in every sector of the economy. There is a growing excitement over the many developments in the space industry, giving rise to many questions about how these developments will impact markets overall. This guide is meant to assist strategic planners in assessing developments in the space sector. For more see: The Executive’s Guide To Commercial Use of Space
The last decade has seen an incredible increase in the commercial use of space. Businesses and individual consumers now leverage space solutions that are so integrated into our systems that they seem invisible. Some of these services include: Communications, including very high-speed low latency communications to distant and mobile users. Learn more at: OODA Research Report: What Business Needs To Know About Security In Space Also see: Is Space Critical Infrastructure, and the special report on Cyber Threats to Project Artemis, and Mitigating Threats To Commercial Space Satellites