Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Israeli missile-makers strive to meet Iron Dome demand.(Reuters). Israel sees its Iron Dome anti-rocket system as a noted success of its Gaza assault. The only problem is keeping up with demand for the interceptor missiles, their makers said on Tuesday.
"We've been working in non-stop shifts," said an official with Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd, which developed the system. He declined to be named for security reasons.
Equipped with five of the boxed-shaped batteries, the Israeli military says it has fired 360 missiles since the start of operation "Pillar of Defence" last Wednesday, which it says is aimed at halting rocket fire out of the coastal enclave. Each interception costs $30,000 to $50,000, according to former Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Israel argues that proves cost-effective in preventing lethal strikes, which could trigger a vastly more expensive war.
Sometimes two missiles are used against incoming rockets. Prior to this week's fighting Israel had stockpiled the interceptors - whose exact quantity is a state secret.
"Outstanding success rates have been achieved so far," said Avi Leshem, an official with ELTA, a smaller firm involved in the project. He said company employees were working "night and day" to ensure the batteries stay in service.
The head of Israel's air defence corps, Brigadier-General Shahar Shochat, said this week that the Iron Dome units could continue fighting "as required".
An industry source familiar with production standards for such weapons, estimated that at full output a company like Rafael would be able to produce around 10 missiles a day.
The fifth Iron Dome unit, rushed through production and posted near Tel Aviv on Saturday, features improved capabilities for tackling longer-range rockets. Israel hopes to increase the range of Iron Dome's interceptions, from the current maximum of 70 km (45 miles) to 250 km.
Each battery costs Israel around $50 million, though the export price would likely be higher. And there is already "considerable interest" in the system overseas, ELTA said in a statement.
"But all we are thinking about is supplying Israel with its needs," the Rafael official said. "Israel comes first." (Editing by Crispian Balmer and Alistair Lyon).Read the full story here.