The Obama administration plans to announce this week a $680 million aid package to Israel for the procurement of additional Iron Dome batteries.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is scheduled to meet with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon on Thursday. Following the meeting, the two intend to hold a joint press conference where they will publicize the news.

As of May, Israel possesses four Iron Dome batteries in operation and the air force plans to deploy an additional three over the coming year. The $680 million in aid will enable Israel to purchase three to four more batteries and accompanying interceptors.

Since its deployment last year, Iron Dome batteries have intercepted nearly 100 Katyusha and Kassam rockets fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip.

Barak’s talks with Panetta will also focus on Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear capability.

They will also discuss the upcoming second round of talks between Western powers and Iran scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad.

The new aid 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.

There is speculation that the US’s decision to increase funding for Iron Dome could be a sign of improved coordination between Jerusalem and Washington regarding Iran and possibly an indication that Israel does not plan to attack the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities in the near future.

In addition to funding for new batteries, Congress also supports the development of Arrow 3 – Israel’s futuristic defense system against ballistic missiles – as well as David’s Sling, the medium-range missile defense system under development by Raytheon and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

Iron Dome is designed to defend against rockets at a range of 4 to 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.

The radar enables Iron Dome operators to predict the impact site of the enemy rocket.

If the rocket is slated to hit an open area, the operator may decide not to intercept. Each interceptor costs between $50,000-$100,000 and usually two are fired at rockets slated for interception.

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