Israeli government test-fired a US-backed missile over the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday, August 3rd in an unannounced action, which added to jitters in the area amid potential strikes on Syria.
Warplane of the Israeli forces fired a “Sparrow” missile, which was successfully detected and shot down by an interceptor shortly after 9:15 am local time (3:15 am UTC), according to information, issued by Israel and the United States.
The operation appeared to take authorities in some countries by surprise – not least Russia, whose official Itar-Tass news agency reported that Moscow had been detected the launch of 2 ballistic “objects” in the region of Mediterranean Sea.
It also did little to calm fears in the area that is under the shadow of an forthcoming military strike on Syria by the forces of the United States.
The released news ruffled financial markets until Israel stated it was behind the test.
The Sparrow missile that simulates the long-range missiles of Syria and Iran, is used for target practice by Israel’s US-backed ballistic shield Arrow, according to the information from Reuters.
Officials from the Pentagon initially denied the Russian report of a missile launch, calling it “mischevious,” then confirmed the Israeli test but denied any meaningful U.S. military involvement.
George Little, Pentagon press secretary, later issued a written statement that confirmed the move and calling it a "US-Israel Missile Defense test."
He stated it was a “long-planned” operation “to help evaluate the ability of the Arrow Ballistic Missile Defense."
“Early on Wednesday, the Department of Defense of the United States secured technical assistance and support to the Israeli Missile Defense Organization flight test of a Sparrow target missile over the Mediterranean Sea,” the statement said.
“The United States and Israel cooperate on a number of long-term ballistic missile defense development projects to address common challenges in the region. This test had nothing to do with United States consideration of military action to respond to Syria's chemical weapons attack.”
In its statement, Israel's defense ministry said the launch had "tested the ability of the Arrow anti-missile system."
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon shrugged off a question from reporters on whether the launch might have been ill-timed, Reuters reported. He said Israel had to work to maintain its military edge and “this necessitates field trials and, accordingly, a successful trial was conducted to test our systems."
Meanwhile, one of the five American guided-missile destroyers positioned in the eastern Mediterranean for possible airstrikes against Syria headed for home on Monday.
The USS Mahan was scheduled to head back to its home port in Norfolk, Va., more than a week ago when she was ordered into the eastern Mediterranean for possible launch operations. There are no current plans to replace the Mahan with another guided-missile surface warship, officials said.
The Mahan’s departure leaves four guided missile destroyers, the Barry, Gravely, Ramage and Stout and at least one submarine in the region, each loaded with up to 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nimitz, along with one guided missile cruiser and three guided missile destroyers, also remained in the Red Sea as a “prudent” precaution but as of Monday there were no plans for the Nimitz to take part in any potential operation against Syria, according to officials.