(photo credit: Rafael.co.il)
The Defense Ministry is working on allocating the funding to manufacture seven Iron Dome missile defense batteries over the next two years, defense officials said Monday.
Two weeks ago the Iron Dome underwent a successful round of tests that concluded the development stage of the system, which is said to be capable of intercepting barrages of Kassam and Katyusha rockets.
The Iron Dome uses an advanced radar, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries Elta, that locates and tracks incoming rockets, which are then intercepted by a kinetic missile interceptor.
According to the current timeline, the first battery of four launchers will be deployed along the Gaza border by the middle of 2010. At a later stage and based on operational assessments, the IDF may decide to deploy a battery along the border with Lebanon as well.
The IDF has already established a new battalion to operate the system, which will be part of the Israel Air Force's Air Defense Division. Prototypes of the Iron Dome have already been supplied to the new battalion, which has commenced training.
The estimated cost of seven batteries is close to $250 million, including hundreds of interceptors. Defense officials said that the production would be spread over several years for budgetary purposes.
"More batteries means more maneuverability," explained one defense official. "This will be the optimal deployment since it will provide decent protection in the North and the South."
The IDF is hoping foreign customers will express interest in acquiring the system. Officials said that the United States as well as a country in Asia had expressed interest in the Iron Dome and had sent teams to Israel in recent months to evaluate it.