Iron Dome hits unexpected technical delays

Launch test canceled at last minute due to a technical malfunction; test rescheduled for July.

Kassams burn 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Kassams burn 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Development of the Iron Dome anti-missile system has encountered an unexpected delay after a test launch originally scheduled to take place two weeks ago was postponed until next month, defense officials said Tuesday. Last February, then-defense minister Amir Peretz chose Rafael's Iron Dome system as Israel's anti-Katyusha and Kassam rocket defense system. The system is supposed to be capable of intercepting Kassam and Katyusha rockets with a small kinetic missile interceptor and is scheduled to be deployed outside the Gaza Strip and along the northern border by 2010. Its development cost is estimated at $300 million. The launch test was cancelled at the last minute due to a technical malfunction at the test site in southern Israel, near the Ramon Air Force Base. The malfunction was not connected to the Iron Dome, officials said. The test had already been rescheduled several times, and officials said Tuesday it would not be conducted until the middle of July. Officials said the unexpected delay would not significantly affect the development of the system and that it could still meet its operational deadline of 2010. Rafael has also been promised a bonus if it completes the development of the system earlier than planned. Earlier this month, Defense News reported that the Bush administration was considering investing some $200 million in the development of the Iron Dome system. A defense official quoted in the paper said the entire project would cost $310 million and that Israel was seeking 65 percent of the funding from the United States.