Rafael EVP: We'll sell Iron Dome to US next year

Iron Dome Photo: Tamar Matsafi
Iron Dome Photo: Tamar Matsafi

Brig. Gen. (res.) Pini Yungman is confident Israel will soon export the short range missile interception system to the US.

"We'll make the first export deal for Iron Dome with the US ground forces during the current Hebrew calendar year," Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. EVP air superiority systems division head Brig. Gen. (res.) Pini Yungman told "Globes." He added, "There is no deal yet, but it may come soon."

The company's dealings with procurement agencies in the US army and Department of Defense are being coordinated with US corporation Raytheon, which is cooperating with Rafael in missile development. The two companies jointly develop and manufacture the David's Sling interception system for medium-range missiles, a system declared operational by the IDF three years ago. This cooperation also includes joint production of the Stunner interceptor missile used for David's Sling.

Rafael is not offering additional details about the emerging deal in the US or its monetary value. One Iron Dome interceptor missile costs $50,000, and the estimated price of one battery, including its command and control system, is $50 million.

Yungman's remarks indicate that Rafael has successfully completed installation of all of the units connected to the Iron Dome system in a single vehicle, which can provide mobile defense against short-range rockets and mortars for forces deployed on the battlefield. The truck-like vehicle will carry the launcher, radar, and the command and control system in order to provide close protection for maneuvering forces.

"This system has the same performance as the regular Iron Dome missile we are all familiar with," Yungman says. "it provides protection against rockets and mortars. We already have a model of the system, and if we have an end customer, we'll have it up and running within two years. The US taxpayer is funding part of the Iron Dome plan, so the US army is also entitled to benefit from this system."

Rafael and Raytheon tested Iron Dome twice in 2016 and 2017. "We and Raytheon jointly leased an Antonov-126, loaded a battery, and flew it to the US," Yungman says. The trial was conducted at the White Sands missile testing base. The system was challenged with two threated aimed at it unexpectedly, without its operators knowing even the general direction in advance. "All of the threats were successfully destroyed," says Yungman.

Adjustments to new air threats

Since the IDF made Iron Dome operational, Rafael and the Ministry of Defense have been trying to sell it to various armies around the world, and are displaying it at defense exhibitions. Iron Dome is drawing a great deal of attention at these exhibitions, but no export deal has actually been concluded. It was previously reported that Azerbaijan was planning to acquire several Iron Dome batteries from Israel. In recent months, the possibility of Romania procuring the Israeli defense system has also been raised, after Rafael signed an industrial cooperation agreement with a local defense company.

Israeli defense sources explained in the past that in an absolute majority of the cases, conditions were not ready for deals in which the system would be sold to specific countries. Other sources previously said that despite the system's advantages, almost no country in the world faced the range of high-trajectory threats that Israel faced.

At the same time, Rafael and the Ministry of Defense are absolutely denying the wave of reports about an impending sale of Iron Dome to Saudi Arabia. According to Saudi Arabian media reports, the US pressured Israel to supply the defense system to Saudi Arabia in order to protect the latter against missiles and rockets fired by the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

While only the IDF is using Iron Dome as of now, its radar system, MMR, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) subsidiary Elta Systems, has already been sold to 10 countries, including Canada and India.

This radar system has highly developed capabilities for detecting small objects. It is adapted to rocket and missile interception missions, aiming artillery, pinpointing sources of fire, etc. It is believed that IAI has sold many dozens of these radar systems for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Rafael believes that the many upgrades made in Iron Dome in recent years, including updated versions and adjustments to new threats that have appeared in the area, are making it an air defense system for all intents and purposes, with versatile capabilities, headed by rocket interception. Extending the system's capabilities is likely to increase its export potential in the coming years.

$5.5 billion in aid

Iron Dome made its first interception in the skies over Ashkelon in 2011, when the Tamir missile intercepted a Grad rocket launched from the Gaza Strip. Iron Dome has since performed 1,800 successful interceptions.

70% of the components used in the interception system are currently produced by various companies in the US, imported to Israel, and assembled in Rafael's facilities at the Leshem Institute in northern Israel. Rafael says that despite the extensive importing of components and structures for the system, it is maintaining its ability to manufacture it completely in Israel at any time.

Transferal of production of most of the components for the system to the US is due mainly to the fact that over the year, the US administration has generously budgeted the development programs for the multi-layer defense system against missiles and rockets: US aid for this purpose totaled $5.5 billion in 2010-2017.

The amount of US aid for Israel's anti-missile defense programs is $400-500 million annually. The volume of aid to Israel in this area approved by the US for 2018 is $705 million, including a special allocation for funding a series of tests of the Arrow 3 missile system slated to take place in Alaska.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 26, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

Iron Dome Photo: Tamar Matsafi
Iron Dome Photo: Tamar Matsafi
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