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Olmert briefed on Israeli missile shield progress

by Staff Writers
Jerusalem (AFP) Jan 22, 2008
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday visited Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, which has been tasked with developing missiles to counter short- and medium-range rockets, his office said.

Israel already has the Hetz, a ground-to-air missile capable of intercepting long-range ballistic missiles.

But last year the government decided to develop systems to provide complete coverage "against different types of missile with conventional and non-conventional warheads capable of reaching populated areas," a statement said.

On December 23 the government earmarked funds to develop an advanced defence system aimed at countering rocket fire from Gaza and Lebanon.

The security cabinet allocated 811 million shekels (207 million dollars, 144 million euros) towards the development and manufacture of the system by Rafael over the coming five years, a defence ministry spokesman said last month.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the system -- dubbed "The Iron Dome" -- would be operational within 30 months.

The project is part of a multi-layered defence system aimed at protecting Israel from both short-range missiles and rockets fired by militants in Gaza or Lebanon and longer-range missiles in the arsenals of regional foes Iran and Syria.

Olmert was briefed on the project by Rafael chairman reserve General Ilan Biran.

The ground-to-air "Stunner" missile -- capable of intercepting medium-range missiles -- was shown to the press for the first time during the premier's visit.

Olmert was also shown the prototype of a missile under development that is aimed at downing Qassam home-made rockets fired on a near daily basis by Palestinian militants inside the Gaza Strip at southern Israel.

The statement said this system should become operational at the beginning of 2010.

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