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By David Morgan
WASHINGTON, July 14 (Reuters) - Israel will soon test an Arrow interceptor missile on a U.S. missile range in the Pacific Ocean in an exercise that will also involve three U.S. missile defense systems, a top U.S. general said on Tuesday.
Army Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, said the test will allow Israel to measure its advanced Arrow system against a target with a range of more than 620 miles (1,000 km), too long for previous Arrow test sites in the eastern Mediterranean.
A U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it would be Israel’s third Arrow test in the United States. The test flight would likely occur within the next several days off the central California coast, roughly between Santa Barbara and Point Mugu.
The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a notice to aircraft to avoid the area, the official said.
The Arrow system, jointly developed by Israel and the United States, is designed to defend the Jewish state against possible ballistic missile attacks from Iran and Syria.
"They are having a flight test soon this summer," O’Reilly told reporters.
"They’re limited to the range of the missile they can test in the eastern Mediterranean. There’s a safety issue," he said. "That’s the primary purpose of them coming to the United States to use our test range."
"The upcoming test also provides us the opportunity to have the Patriot system, the THAAD system and the Aegis system all interacting with the Arrow system so that we’re demonstrating full interoperability as we execute this test," he added.
The U.S. defense official said the exercise would involve only the "sensor assets" of U.S. missile systems and emphasized that the test would be mainly Israeli.
Israel carried out a successful test launch of its Arrow II interceptor missile in April, shooting down a target designed to simulate an Iranian Shehab missile over the Mediterranean.
Israel Radio said the April exercise was the 16th test launch of an Arrow. A defense source in Israel said 90 percent of the tests have been successful.
At least two Arrow batteries have been deployed in Israel, which has been testing the system to improve its performance at high altitudes against multiple incoming missiles.
Israel fears Iran’s uranium enrichment program is aimed at producing nuclear weapons that could be placed on medium- to long-range missiles. Iran denies the allegation. (Editing by Todd Eastham; additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem)