Amid rising tensions in the Middle East, Israel and the U.S. conducted a test of a ballistic target, alarming Russia's warning systems.

The Israeli Missile Defense Organization and U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) test-launched a new generation of ballistic target dubbed “Silver Sparrow” on Sept. 3. The governments say the tests had been scheduled before the recent gas attacks on civilians near Damascus, Syria. Developed by Israeli defense company Rafael, the target simulates a 1,500-km-range (932-mi.) ballistic missile, similar to the Iranian Shahab-3.

The 3-ton, 8.40-meter-long (28-ft.) target was launched eastward from an Israeli F-15A above the Mediterranean, west of Crete. Upon reentering the atmosphere, the missile separated the engine from the reentry vehicle and both crashed into the sea off the Israeli coast. It was the Silver Sparrow's first fly-out test, and no attempt was made to intercept it.

A Russian radar station in Armavir, near the Black Sea, detected the test and, uncharacteristically, the Russian defense ministry issued a statement noting that “two ballistic missiles were fired above the Mediterranean eastbound.” Just 2 hr. after the Russian statement, as international media were speculating on the incident, the Israeli defense ministry and Pentagon confirmed the joint test.

“The test was long planned to help evaluate the Arrow ballistic missile defense system's ability to detect, track and communicate information about a simulated threat to Israel,” stated the U.S. Defense Department.

Asked whether it was prudent to conduct the test in such tense times, a senior Israeli official tells Aviation Week: “All times are tense in the Middle East. If we wait for calm times, we will never be able to conduct tests.”