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Switzerland, Austria to join European air-defense project

The German-led Sky Shield Initiative includes the Israeli Arrow-3 missile-defense system.

An Arrow-3 missile interceptor. Credit: Israeli Ministry of Defense Spokesperson’s Office.
An Arrow-3 missile interceptor. Credit: Israeli Ministry of Defense Spokesperson’s Office.

Switzerland and Austria have announced their intention to join the German-led European Sky Shield Initiative, which includes the Israeli Arrow-3 missile-defense system.

The neutral countries would become the only two non-NATO members of the program, launched by Berlin last year to counter aerial threats from Russia following its military invasion of Ukraine.

Swiss Defense Minister Viola Amherd and her Austrian counterpart Klaudia Tanner are set to sign a declaration of intent to join the initiative in the Swiss administrative capital Bern on Friday in a meeting with German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius.

Bern announced its intention to join the initiative on Tuesday and Vienna made the announcement last week, saying that negotiations were taking place.

“The threat situation has massively intensified due to the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine. Austria will therefore join the European air defense initiative, Sky Shield,” Chancellor Karl Nehammer said on Saturday.

The Arrow-3 system is a key component of the initiative. Last month, German lawmakers green-lit millions of euros in advance payments ahead of the Federal Republic’s purchase of the system. Should the agreement be completed, Germany would become the first foreign purchaser of the Arrow-3.

Arrow-3, among the most advanced systems of its kind, was jointly developed by the Israeli Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

France has not joined the initiative, with French President Emmanuel Macron arguing against a reliance on non-European systems and cautioning that an Iron Dome-like aerial-defense system similar to what Israel uses to defend against enemy rocket fire will not work for the entire continent of Europe.

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