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U.S. seeks double Israel missile funding
by Staff Writers
Tel Aviv, Israel (UPI) Dec 14, 2012

Israel's defense industry got two big boosts this week.

First, at least two U.S. senators want U.S. President Barack Obama's administration to at least double its funding request for Israel's anti-missile systems to $680 million.

Secondly, India, a major buyer of Israeli weapons systems, wants a "buy and build" deal on Rafael Advanced Defense Systems' Iron Dome weapon that scored an 86.3 percent kill rate against Palestinian rockets in November.

Obama has asked Congress to approve $99.9 million for "Israel cooperative programs" in fiscal 2013.

The U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year exceeded that by adding $168 million to Obama's request. The Senate recommended adding $100 million to its own authorization act last week.

The Jewish Telegraph Agency reported from Washington that U.S. Sens.

Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., sent a letter Wednesday to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee urging them agree to the higher House increase.

"As witnessed by the recent attacks on Israel from Gaza, the continued joint efforts of the United States and Israel in missile defense systems is critical to protecting a close U.S. ally and American interests in that region," the letter said.

These appropriations are separate from the annual $3.1 billion in U.S. military aid Israel receives.

The projects covered by the funding under consideration include the long-range, high-altitude Arrow-3 system designed to intercept ballistic missiles outside Earth's atmosphere. It's being developed by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and the U.S. Boeing Co.

Arrow-3's intended as the upper-tier of a four-level anti-missile defense shield Israel is constructing.

Another is David's Sling, under development by Rafael and the U.S. Raytheon Co. to counter medium-range missiles.

Other Israeli missile-defense projects include the short-range Iron Dome system, the bottom layer of the defense shield and operational since March 2011. The United States provided $205 million for it in fiscal 2011.

Arrow-2, which operates at lower altitudes than Arrow-3, is also included. It, too, is deployed but hasn't been tested in combat.

The U.S. Congress approved almost $1 billion in funding for these Israeli systems in May.

The U.S. weekly Defense News reported this week Israel and India are discussing the sale of Iron Dome units, which cost around $55 million per battery, even though some missile experts assess that Iron Dome may be overrated.

India's vastly bigger than tiny Israel, which military planners say will need at least 13 batteries to effectively provide nationwide coverage against short-range rockets.

So the price tag for New Delhi could end up being quite substantial if it wants to protect its diffuse population centers and strategic military installations.

Defense News reported the director general of Israel's Defense Ministry, Udi Shani, was in New Delhi discussing Iron Dome and other joint projects with Indian Defense Secretary Shahsi Kant Sharma.

India wants to buy an unknown number of Iron Dome batteries but also wants to produce the system in India under license. Defense News said Israel has agreed to sell to New Delhi but remains hesitant on the technology transfer.

Given the hefty U.S. funding of Iron Dome, the Pentagon would likely have a say in any proposed sale or transfer.

South Korea has also expressed interest in Iron Dome but there are few other states facing threats from short-range rockets so Iron Dome, even its upgraded version with longer range, may have limited sales potential.

Defense News says other Israeli-Indian defense projects under discussion include development of a medium-range ballistic missile and a long-range ballistic weapon at a combined cost of $2 billion.

Three Israeli companies -- IAI, its electronics subsidiary Elta Systems, and Rafael -- are involved in developing a surface-to-surface missile with India's Defense Research and Development Organization.

Future projects under discussion include aircraft-launched micro-satellites, laser-guided munitions and missiles and a long-range system for tracking ballistic missiles.

Shani and Sharma were also reported to have explored a joint effort to develop a long-range naval missile to protect warships from aerial attack.

That project's no doubt linked to India's big naval expansion program to counter China's naval buildup along energy shipping routes across the Indian Ocean.

This $600 million project, launched in 2005 but troubled by delays, is reportedly in the testing stage, although the weapon will probably be operational by mid-2014. IAI's the key Israeli contractor.


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