JERUSALEM -- Israel and the United States tested a new air-defense system Tuesday, launching a missile from deep in the Mediterranean Sea that caused consternation in Syria and Russia given the heightened tension in the region as the Obama administration weighs a military strike in Syria.
Israel's Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the first test of the latest version of the so-called Sparrow target missile had been successful, with the missile following its planned trajectory toward the Israeli coast and the Arrow radar system detecting and tracking its path. Defense Ministry spokeswoman Myriam Nahon declined to answer questions about whether the test had been connected in any way to the situation in Syria, saying only that such tests are "conducted periodically," and "it happens whenever it has to happen."
In Washington, the Pentagon said in a statement that it had provided technical assistance and support to the Israelis for the Sparrow test launch. The statement said the test had nothing to do with U.S. preparations for possible military action against Syria. "The test was long planned to help the Arrow Ballistic Missile Defense system's ability to detect, track and communicate information about a simulated threat to Israel," the statement said.
Arieh Herzog, former head of Israel's missile defense program, said the test was "a routine part of what is done in the development of the defense systems."
In "regular days, the Russians would not see it," Mr. Herzog said. "But right now, they have probably many sensors looking at the region, so each and every movement or flying object in the region is something that they look at and try to understand what happens. They may be thinking that it may be something that is connected to the Syrian situation, but it is not."
Commenting on the missile test, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Army Radio that the Israel Defense Forces' preparedness over the past week was "founded on many technological capabilities, which need to be tested by the defense establishment and the army -- and, indeed, a successful test was held."
Mr. Yaalon added that Israel had not been involved in the U.S. policy process regarding Syria and noted that given the postponement of any possible military strike, the army had released some of the reservists called up last week.
Syrian state media said there had been no missile detected by Syrian forces. Syrian supporters of the uprising briefly shared a flurry of excited messages on Twitter, viewing it as a sign of preparations for an attack and mocking the Syrian government, and noted that its military had famously not mentioned detecting Israeli missiles and warplanes in various incidents over the years.
In Russia, the missile launch was first reported by the RIA Novosti state news agency, which announced Tuesday afternoon that Russian radar had detected the launch of what it called two ballistic missiles in the Mediterranean Sea.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu was reported to have briefed President Vladimir Putin about the missile launch, even as the lack of details in state media reports raised the question of whether Russian officials knew precisely what had occurred.
Russian Ministry of Defense reports said rockets had been launched more than two hours before the news broke, and yet the missiles had not seemed to hit any target in the region. When the missiles were reported to have crashed in the Mediterranean, the Interfax news service cited a Russian navy source suggesting that the launch may have been a meteorological experiment.