Facing the growing threat of Kassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and US aerospace giant Boeing signed a deal over the weekend in Washington to jointly bid for a contract to develop a Short-Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) for Israel. The Defense Ministry is scheduled to select an Israeli-US industry team next month to complete the initial development phase of the missile plan while the full scale development process and production would begin at a later date. Behind the current tender lies Israel's need to find an effective defense against the Palestinian-developed Kassam rocket which almost daily strikes Israeli towns in the Western Negev and poses a threat to strategic installations situated in the Ashkelon industrial zone. If smuggled into or manufactured in the West Bank, the rockets could also threaten key installations in the center of the country. "There is no question that the combination of high technological abilities at low cost will provide the best defense for the State of Israel," senior IAI official Yair Ramati said. IAI and Boeing have joined forces in the past in the production of the Arrow II interceptor - an anti-ballistic missile in use in Israel and designed to intercept potential attacks from enemy countries including Iran. "This is an opportunity to build on the exceptional partnership that Boeing and IAI have established through the co-production of the successful Arrow II interceptor," said Debra Rub-Zenko, vice president for Boeing Integrated Missile Defense. "It is our privilege to join forces once again with IAI to provide leading edge technology to rapidly and effectively address threats as they evolve."