From The Times UK:
ISRAEL is close to completing a missile defence shield that will destroy Iranian ballistic missiles in space or on their launchpads, a development that has sharply increased the odds of an attack on Iran's nuclear sites.
Israel's Iron Dome rocket defence system successfully knocked out 421 rockets - an 84 per cent success rate - in a stunning demonstration of its capabilities during the conflict with Gaza last month.
It is one part of a multi-tiered missile shield being developed by Israeli scientists that will defend the Jewish state from a variety of threats, including the vast stockpile of rockets held by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and Syria's armoury of Scuds and SS-21 ballistic missiles.
A second defensive system, Magic Wand (known outside Israel as David's Sling), was successfully tested last week and will be fully operational next year. A third tier consists of Arrow-2 and the soon-to-be introduced Arrow-3 interceptors which are designed to destroy Iranian long-range ballistic missiles in space before they re-enter the atmosphere.
Israel has deployed three Arrow batteries with a total of 144 interceptors. In addition it has several batteries of American-made Patriot PAC-2 and PAC-3 surface-to-air guided missiles that were last used in 1991 against Saddam Hussein's Scud missiles.
Leaps in technology mean the new systems will be far more effective than those used against Saddam. Ben Goodlad, an analyst at IHS Jane's, said: "What we're seeing now is a far higher success rate of interception than in the first Gulf War; it's a significant step forward."
The Arrow batteries are capable of dealing with multiple-warhead missiles. Some defence experts believe the ability to protect its civilian population will give Israel a freer hand in dealing with the Iranian threat.
Shashank Joshi, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said Israel's new systems represented a "renaissance" in missile defence. He added: "It could give Israel a degree of isolation behind which it could conduct military operations." But he warned that "Arrow is a different technology from Iron Dome; the nature of what they are trying to intercept is different".
Israel's early warning system relies on the American X-band radar system deployed deep in the Negev desert, which can detect an Iranian missile on its launchpad 1600km to the northeast. The X-band system gives Israelis up to 13 minutes' warning.
"We'll try to 'kill' them at the booster stage - the moment their engines are ignited,"said an Israeli military source.
To launch a pre-emptive attack on Iranian missiles, the Israelis would use giant Eitan drones, which have a wingspan almost as big as a Boeing 737 and can hover for more than 24 hours at a time.
The Sunday Times