After months of deliberations, the IDF has decided to store the Iron Dome anti-rocket system at an air force base in the center of the country and to deploy it only in cases of extreme rocket fire from either the Gaza Strip or southern Lebanon, senior military sources said on Sunday.

The decision was made ahead of the planned announcement that Iron Dome had reached “initial operational capability,” initially scheduled for this month.

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On Sunday, top IDF officers told The Jerusalem Post that the initial operational capability would be postponed until the first quarter of 2011. The delay, the officers stressed, was not due to technical malfunctions but rather to the intricate process of training IDF officers and soldiers to use the complicated weapons system.

“This system is unbelievable,” one officer said. “It is, however, sometimes a complicated process to take in such a system and to turn it operational and into a fully functioning weapons system.”

Last month, Iron Dome, developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, was delivered to the IAF, which has designated the Hatzor air base near Gedera as the headquarters for the new system, which was designed to counter incoming rockets at a range of four to 70 kilometers.

Each battery consists of a multimission radar manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries and three launchers, each with 20 interceptors capable of protecting a vast stretch of land.


The system passed a series of tests in July, when it successfully intercepted a number of 122 mm. Grad-type Katyusha rockets.

The IDF has already identified positions along the borders with the Gaza Strip and Lebanon that can be used by the system, which includes a launcher, radar and command post.

“The idea is to have a number of locations throughout the country where we will be able to deploy the system – basically to plug it in and have it up and working in real time,” a defense official said.

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