Israel is rushing to increase output of its Iron Dome missile defense equipment after the system proved successful at intercepting rockets fired from the Gaza Strip in an escalating conflict entering its second week, said two people familiar with the plan.
State-owned manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. and Israel Aerospace Industries’s Elta unit, which provides the radar that tracks rockets, have been asked to accelerate production, said the people, asked not to be identified because the plan isn’t public. The Israeli cabinet has discussed additional funding to speed output, one person said.
Israel entered the siege with Hamas this month with four systems, funded partly by the U.S. A fifth installation that had was still in testing at the start of the conflict, has since been rushed into operational use. The sixth battery is due for delivery early next year.
The Iron Dome system, which made its combat debut last year, is designed to shoot down rockets with a range of 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to 70 kilometers in-flight. Israel has been working for more than 15 years on a shield to protect against the cheap, often home-made rockets and is trying to keep pace as the threats become more accurate and longer range.
Since Nov. 14, 809 rockets fired from Gaza have struck Israel, while the Iron Dome has intercepted 389, the Israel Defense Force said on its website late yesterday. Additional intercepts have occurred since, it added.
The system is designed to ignore rockets that will fall in unpopulated areas to avoid depleting the supply of scarce Tamir interceptors, with the system achieving a 90 percent hit-rate, the ministry said. Israeli defense officials have said they would need 10 to 13 Iron Dome systems to provide country-wide coverage against rockets.
The latest iteration of Iron Dome also features system upgrades to deal with longer-range rocket threats. In the past, the Israeli towns directly around Gaza have been subject to rocket attack, with Hamas missiles now reaching as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The system attracted international interest even before the latest round of fighting began. South Korea has shown interest in the system, Alon Ben-David, an independent defense analyst said. South Korea faces a threat of North Korean short-to medium-range rockets that could target Seoul.
Singapore has acquired and fielded the system, Aviation Week has reported. Singapore is a long-standing buyer of Israeli defense equipment, including unmanned aircraft and Gulfstream business-jet based surveillance aircraft.
The U.S. also has shown interest in anti-rocket systems since military installations in Iraq and Afghanistan came under fire. In February, the Army awarded Raytheon Co. a $79 million contract for the Accelerated Improved Intercept Initiative, the company said in an emailed statement.
Last year, Raytheon and Rafael teamed up to potentially offer a version of Iron Dome in the U.S. The companies have teamed up on the Stunner, a longer-range interceptor to be used in Israel’s David’s Sling defense system.