After months of deliberations and disagreements, the Defense Ministry will decide by the end of the month which anti-Kassam rocket defense system to invest in and develop, top defense officials have told The Jerusalem Post.
At the same time, the defense establishment will decide on whether it will begin development of a new generation of the Israeli-made Arrow ballistic missile defense system. The ministry has recently asked the Pentagon for information on two US-made advanced anti-missile systems - the Aegis naval defense system and the ground-based Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
Once the decision is made concerning the Kassam system, officials estimate the development process will take at least two years, with certain systems - if chosen - taking up to four years. Estimations are that the project will cost at least $300 million.
A committee headed by Defense Ministry Dir.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi will convene at the end of the month to hear reviews of the various systems by officers from the Air Force and the Ground Forces Command (GFC) as well as officials from the ministry's Research and Development Authority (MAFAT). The forum most recently met in November to decide that the IAF would be in charge of the project, not the GFC.
A number of systems are under review but, as the Post reported exclusively in November, the defense establishment prefers a system under development by Rafael - Israel's Armament Development Authority.
The system under consideration is based on two anti-missile systems being developed by Rafael: one involving a solid laser that will have the ability to intercept Kassams in mid-air, the other a small and cheap anti-rocket missile with a kinetic warhead. Ashkenazi's committee will decide on a system and bring it to Defense Minister Amir Peretz for approval. Peretz will then have to wait for the final green light from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cabinet, which will need to allocate additional funds to the defense budget to pay for the development of the system.
Last week, a top IDF general told reporters that the current defense budget did not include funds for the development of an anti-rocket system and that when a system was chosen its development would have to come at the expense of other military needs - such as training - if additional funding was not allocated by the government.