Israel’s latest round of military attacks on the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip fulfill several Israeli goals, one of them perhaps being increased international sales of the “Iron Dome” air defence system which Israel is deploying to intercept and destroy short-range rockets shot from Gaza.
Iron Dome system (Photo: Natan Flayer)
The Iron Dome anti-rocket system is designed to counter short-range rockets and 155 mm artillery shells with a range of up to 70 kilometers. The system has three central components: a detection and tracking radar built by Elta, a battle management and weapon control (BMC) built by mPrest Systems, an Israeli software company, and a missile firing unit, that launches the Tamir interceptor missile, equipped with electro-optic sensors and several steering fins for high maneuverability. The missile is built by Rafael.
The system's radar detects a rocket launch and tracks its trajectory. Then, the BMC calculates the expected hit point according to the reported data, and uses this information to determine whether the target constitutes a threat to a designated area; only in this case an interceptor missile is fired to detonate the rocket before it reaches the expected impact area. The system is designed to only intercept rockets identified as heading for designated targets.
In July of this year and only one day before the visit of then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney to Jerusalem, President Obama signed legislation that gives Israel $70 million for its "Iron Dome" rocket defense system. "I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across the whole spectrum of security issues -- intelligence, military, technology," said Obama before signing the bill in the Oval Office.
In addition Obama secured an additional $205 million in the last fiscal year to help produce the Iron Dome, and intends to request additional funding for the Israeli system on top of the $70 million provided this year.
The development of the Iron Dome system was financed partially by the United States, which granted an initial US$205 million toward its development. On 9 May 2011, Haaretz reported that Defense Ministry Director General Maj. Gen. (res.) Udi Shani said that Israel plans to invest nearly USid="mce_marker" billion in the coming years for the development and production of Iron Dome batteries.
"We are defining the final target for absorbing the systems, in terms of schedule and funds. We are talking about [having] 10-15 Iron Dome batteries. We will invest nearly USid="mce_marker" billion on this. This is the goal," Shani said.
Three Israeli companies are involved in the development of the new system. One is Elta Systems, Ltd., a subsidiary group of Israel Aerospace Industries. Elta is one of Israel's major defense electronics companies specialising in a variety of fields. The company was established in 1967 and its 2006 sales reached US$805 million, of which 90% were exported to armed forces worldwide and 10% were sold domestically.
For development of the Iron Dome Elta partnered with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., an Israeli company founded in 1948 as Israel’s National R&D Defense Laboratory for the development of weapons and military technology within the Ministry of Defense. The Iron Dome was developed as a final product by Rafael.