Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided Sunday to award the 2012 Israel Defense Prize to the developers of the Iron Dome counter-rocket defense system. Barak’s decision was the final approval of a recommendation submitted by a prize committee.

Splitting the award are eight engineers from the Defense Ministry; Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which was the lead contractor in the program; and Impress, which developed the command-and-control system for Iron Dome.

The Israel Air Force currently operates four Iron Dome batteries, which are deployed throughout the South due to the recent escalation in rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

The Iron Dome was originally designed to defend against rockets at a range between 4 km. and 70 km. Each battery consists of a mini multi-mission radar manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries and three launchers, each equipped with 20 interceptors called Tamirs.

As reported recently in The Jerusalem Post though, the IDF is working to increase the system’s range to enable it to intercept longer-range rockets that could be fired into Israel.

The radar enables Iron Dome operators to predict the impact site of the enemy rocket and decide not to intercept it if it is slated to hit an open area. Each interceptor costs between $50,000 and $100,000, and usually two are fired at rockets slated for interception.

Since its deployment last year, Iron Dome batteries have intercepted just over 100 Katyusha and Kassam rockets fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Last month, the US announced that it would provide Israel with $70 million in immediate aid to assist in procuring additional systems.

The new package comes after the Obama administration gave Israel $205 million in 2011 and comes on top of the $3 billion Israel receives in annual foreign aid from the United States.

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