Israel's upgraded Arrow 3 ballistic missile only partially passed its first live interception test on Tuesday, a fact the Defense Ministry attempted to conceal until questions and foreign reports surfaced stating that the test was not successful.
In a statement, the Defense Ministry initially said that "within the framework of preparations for a future interception test, a target missile was launched and carried out its trajectory successfully."
The ministry excluded the fact that as opposed to the original plan, operators of the Arrow 3 battery at Palmahim air base on the Mediterranean coast canceled the launch after the interceptor missile failed to lock on to a target missile fired over the Mediterranean.
Asked whether Tuesday's trial had been intended as a full interception that had failed, a Defense Ministry spokesman initially provided no immediate comment.
Only later did the ministry issue a statement saying that "the conditions for the interceptor launch never materialized."
"There was a countdown to the launch, and then nothing happened," one source told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "A decision was made not to waste the interceptor missile."
Arrow is among several elements of an integrated Israeli aerial shield built up to withstand potential future missile and rocket attacks by Iran, Syria or their terrorist allies, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
Arrow 3 interceptors are designed to fly above the earth's atmosphere, where their warheads detach to become "kill vehicles" that track and slam into the targets. Such high-altitude shoot-downs are meant to safely destroy incoming nuclear, biological or chemical missiles.
Arrow is jointly developed by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and U.S. firm Boeing Co. Its earlier version, Arrow 2, was deployed more than a decade ago and officials put its success rate in trials at around 90 percent.
But an Arrow 2 interception test on Sept. 9 ended inconclusively, according to the Defense Ministry. The U.S. journal Defense News later reported that the Arrow 2 interceptor missile missed its target.
A senior official in the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure (Mafat), a joint administrative body of the Defense Ministry and IDF that coordinates between the various military industry companies and subsidiaries, spoke to reporters and said the interceptor missile was supposed to launch only if certain conditions were met. He called the decision not to launch the Arrow 3 interceptor "clear-headed."
The official added: "This isn't a success and it isn't a failure, rather a 'no-test' situation. This isn't the first or last time all the conditions for a test launch are not met."
The Defense Ministry declined to detail which conditions for a proper test launch failed to materialize. However, the senior Mafat official said the first phase of the test, which included the launch of the target missile and the tracking of its trajectory by the Arrow 3 system, was a success.