US budget process holds up Iron Dome expansion

Second order of anti-rocket defense systems being held up due to delays in passing of the US annual budget in Congress.

Iron Dome 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Iron Dome 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A second order of Iron Dome rocket defense systems is being held up due to delays in the passing of the United States annual budget in Congress.
Sources in Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, developer of the Iron Dome, said they had been asked by the Defense Ministry to prepare a proposal for a number of new batteries to bolster the two delivered to the Israel Air Force last summer.
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The IAF was supposed to have declared the system operational in January, but postponed a final test of the system. The first two batteries, deployed at the IAF’s Hatzor Base, near Ashdod, are expected to be declared operational in the coming weeks.
Each Iron Dome is designed to defend against rockets at a range of 4-70 kilometers and can protect an area of approximately 150 square miles.
A senior defense official said the procurement of additional batteries was being held up by delays in the passing of the 2011 federal budget in the US that is supposed to include a $205 million grant for Israel to use to buy the systems.
The US government has until the end of March to pass its budget, which means that the earliest Israel will likely receive the funds is in April.
“We cannot put in an official order until the money arrives,” a senior IDF officer said. “Until then, the whole project will be put on hold.”
Last week, the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee held a discussion on the Iron Dome and recommended that the government buy 13 batteries.
The committee also recommended that the two batteries currently in IAF hands be deployed in the South and be used to protect civilians from Hamas rocket fire.
Iron Dome will serve as the lower layer of Israel’s multi-layered missile defense program. In 2012, it will be joined by David’s Sling, which is also being developed by Rafael to intercept medium-range rockets.
Rafael recently held the first flyout test of the David’s Sling interceptor, called Stunner, in the South. It is scheduled to hold the first interception test later this year.