'Budget cuts will hurt Kassam defense'

Defense sources: Continued work on Rafael anti-Kassam system to cost $80m.

kassams awesome 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
kassams awesome 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The cabinet's decision this week to reject the Defense Ministry's request for additional funding puts development of the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system at risk, senior defense officials warned on Tuesday. According to defense sources, the $40 million given to the Rafael Armament Development Authority for initial development is running out and if the Defense Ministry wants to continue work on the system, it will need to allocate at least an additional $80m. within the next few months. In February, then-defense minister Amir Peretz chose Rafael's Iron Dome system as Israel's anti-Katyusha and anti-Kassam rocket defense system. Iron Dome is planned to be capable of intercepting Kassam and Katyusha rockets with a small kinetic missile interceptor and is scheduled to be operational for deployment outside the Gaza Strip and along the northern border within two years. Its development is expected to cost $300 million. On Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited a Rafael plant in the North and was briefed on Iron Dome's development. Barak said the project was of "national importance" and that he would work to obtain the necessary funding for its continued development. But according to high-ranking defense officials, the cabinet's decision not to add NIS 5 billion to the defense budget, as the IDF requested, would almost definitely have an adverse effect on the continued development of the missile defense system. "We need billions of shekels," a high-ranking IDF officer said. "If we don't get the budget there are project's we won't be able to do or will have to develop at a slower pace." Another project at risk is the Trophy system, developed by Rafael to protect Merkava tanks and other armored vehicles from antitank missiles. The IDF Ground Forces Command recently decided to purchase hundreds of units but has yet to give Rafael an official order due to a lack of funds. The Trophy system creates a hemispheric protected zone around armored vehicles and is designed to detect and track a threat and then counter it by firing a projectile that intercepts antitank missiles.