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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Israel’s Barak Heads to U.S. for Iron Dome Funding Talks

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak left today for Washington to hold discussions with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta aimed in part at reaping new funds for a missile-defense system developed to protect Israel.

Barak’s meeting with Panetta on May 17 is intended to include an agreement on more U.S. funding for the Israeli-made Iron Dome system, according to a ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment in advance. The defense chiefs also will confer on regional security issues, the official said.

The U.S. House Armed Services Committee voted last week to authorize as much as $680 million in new funding for Iron Dome from 2012 to 2015. George Little, a Pentagon spokesman, said in March that the Defense Department wanted more funds for the system even though it didn’t include money in its budget request for fiscal 2013.

Iron Dome, built by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., went into operation a year ago and has proved effective at intercepting short-range rockets fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, according to Israeli and U.S. officials.

The $680 million backed by the House panel would be in addition to $205 million authorized last year to buy Iron Dome installations.

While the system was developed especially for Israel’s defense, Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co. (RTN), the world’s largest missile maker, said in August that it has formed a partnership with Rafael in an effort to market the system for U.S. use.

The Armed Services Committee said the Pentagon should ensure that the U.S. “has appropriate rights to this technology” and “should explore any opportunity to enter into co-production of the Iron Dome system with Israel, in light of the significant U.S. investment in this system.”

Closely held Rafael, based in Haifa, Israel, says on its website that it was started as part of Israel’s Ministry of Defense and incorporated in 2002.

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