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New Israeli shield needs years to deploy

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Tel Aviv, Israel (UPI) Jan 13, 2009
Days after completing a test of its Iron Dome shield, Israel says it will take years before the Jewish state's new rocket anti-missile system will be fully deployed.

The warning was sounded by Defense Minister Ehud Barak who predicted, meantime, that once deployed along his country's borders with Gaza and Lebanon, the Iron Dome system will significantly reduce hostilities from militants.

Developed over the last two years at a cost of $200 million by state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., the Iron Dome uses small guided missiles to destroy short-range rockets used by Hezbollah and Hamas militants.

The system, which identifies threats by radar, stops missiles between 2.5 and 45 miles. Hezbollah traditionally uses Iranian-made Fajr rockets to wage attacks into Israel.

Israel has had no defense umbrella to shield itself from thousands of rockets that militants have darted into its southern and northern territories over the years. Millions of Israeli civilians are within range of these rockets.

Once deployed, said Barak, the Iron Dome would "save time of fighting and deter in many cases a potential enemy from really launching an attack."

The Dome is part of a three-tier shield intended to stop different levels of incoming attacks. It is expected to be deployed in conjunction with the long-range, high-altitude Arrow II system, which has been operational since 2000.

The third tier of the shield aims to counter intermediate-range missiles and includes a system known as David's Slingshot.

Both the Arrow II and David Slingshot systems have been developed in cooperation with the United States while the Iron Dome is solely an Israeli project.

It is generally accepted that the military would need about 20 batteries to defend the entire stretch of Israel's northern and southern borders from bombardments launched by Hamas and Hezbollah, respectively.

Each battery costs $14 million, creating consternation among military strategists and planners in Israel.

Earlier this week the prominent daily Haaretz said the system's running costs would require either diverting substantial funds from other defense projects or significantly increasing the defense budget.

"The moment, though, that the enemy realizes that its weapons are not effective enough and that the price it is paying for using them is greater than the benefit, it won't be using them anymore," wrote an opinion piece of the ynet Web site. "Active defense is at times an alternative to war," it said, adding that "there was no other alternative in the world for the Iron Dome."

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