Israel slates 1 bln USD for Iron Dome rocket interceptors

08:12, May 10, 2011      

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Israeli soldiers who operate the Iron Dome rocket shield system are seen taking cover in fox holes during a siren alarm warning against incoming rockets in a field near the southern city of Ashkelon April 9, 2011. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

by Gur Salomon

With its urban centers facing an ever-increasing threat of missiles fired by neighboring countries and groups, Israel plans to invest 1 billion U.S. dollars in the coming years to equip Israel Air Force (IAF) with additional Iron Dome rocket interception batteries, local media reported Monday.

"We are (currently) defining the final target for absorbing the systems in terms of schedule and funds," Israeli Defense Ministry Director-General Udi Shani said in an interview published Monday in the Ha'aretz daily.

"We are talking about 10 to 15 Iron Dome batteries and will invest nearly 1 billion U.S. dollars on this," Shani said in the first media interview since he was appointed to the current position in January 2010.

Developed and produced by state-run Rafael Advanced Systems Ltd. , Iron Dome intercepts and blows up incoming rockets in mid-air, at ranges from 5 to 70 kilometers.

The two batteries currently available to the IAF became operational in early April. Less than a week into their deployment, they shot down eight rockets fired by Gazan militants at southern Israeli cities, in what defense officials described as a " historical achievement."

The system's success prompted calls from within the IAF for the hasty procurement of additional batteries. Military officials estimate that a total of 13 are needed to sufficiently protect Israel's borders.

Shani, a retired army general hailing from the armored corps, said Iron Dome's success has to be placed in perspective.

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