US Wants a Stake in Israel’s Iron Dome Technology

RAFAEL Iron Dome anti-rocket system

Defense lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives are demanding ‘rights to Israel’s Iron Dome Technology’ before releasing the requested $680 million to follow-on production of the Iron Dome anti-rocket weapon systems for Israel, Washington news blog The Hill reports. “The United States has invested nearly $900 million into Iron Dome work, yet it has no rights to the technology involved,” according to the subcommittee’s legislation. The House proposal should share some rights to the weapon’s proprietary technology “as is consistent with prior U.S.-Israeli missile defense cooperation,” according to the subcommittee. If the new funding is granted, the US investment in the production phase of the Iron Dome would more than triple Israel’s own investment in the development of the system.

The first Iron Dome anti-rocket system, was deployed on 'operational evaluation' near Beer Sheva in the Israeli Negev desert on March 2011. Weeks later it successfully engaged multiple salvos of 122mm rockets fired from Gaza at the city. Photo: Noam Eshel, Defense Update.

While Israel often relies on US funding for full-scale development of its defense systems (such as the Merkava, Arrow or David’s Sling), the Israeli MOD has reserved proprietary rights to some highly sensitive technologies, including missiles, satellites, unmanned systems. As such proprietary technology, the Iron Dome anti-rocket weapon was developed exclusively, in record time, by Israel’s RAFAEL Advanced defense Systems, with an Israeli investment of nearly one billion Israeli Shekels (US$260 million.) Al the system’s elements, including the radar, battle management system, communications and the unique effector (including the missile interceptor, guidance and warhead), are products of Israeli inventions. This investment enabled the Israelis to accelerate the development, fielding the system within less than three years from the unofficial program launch.

Beside the rapid availability of such an asset, which already proved critical for the country’s defense in the past year, by owning this Intellectual Property could enable Israel to export the system to its allies abroad without any foreign restrictions. Several customers have already lined up for the system and, executives at RAFAEL’s partner Raytheon Company believe the U.S. itself could be interested in its capability.

“Iron Dome is a game changer. The threats Israel faces from incoming, indiscriminate terrorist rocket attacks are countered by this cutting edge anti-missile system. Iron Dome is fundamentally shifting political, diplomatic and military realities on the ground” said U.S. Rep. Howard L. Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and author of the “Iron Dome Support Act” (IDSA).

Original co-sponsors of the legislation include Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee, U.S. Rep Steve Chabot (R-OH), the Chairman of the Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), and U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY). Now House members are introducing a new claim, as they want Missile Defense Agency chief Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly to “ensure the United States has appropriate rights to this technology” before further money is moved.

House members suggest DOD and O’Reilly “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,” according to the panel’s draft bill. Iron Dome developer RAFAEL and the US Raytheon Company have formed an ongoing cooperation for the development and future production of the David’s Sling medium-range air and missile defense system. Agreements about possible cooperation on the future production of Iron Dome have also been discussed, and Raytheon has informally briefed US military about the system its possible uses to defend US forces deployed abroad.

Support for the Iron Dome is mounting on the Hill, since President Obama introduced his version of the FY2013 budget proposal, which didn’t include funding for the Israeli anti-rocket weapon program. In March, the Pentagon said it intended to seek funds to help Israel buy more Iron Dome equipment. At the same time  a bipartisan group introduced the Iron Dome Support Act in Congress, authorizing the administration to provide more funds for Israel to extend the air-defense system (UPI). A month later, a bill earmarking up to $680 million for Iron Dome procurement over three years from 2012 to 2015, was put together by members of the House of Representatives Republicans led by House Foreign Affairs Committee. Israeli officials said in early April that the ministry is seeking $700 million from the United States to pay for at least four additional Iron Dome batteries to reinforce the three already deployed.

RAFAEL is offering a mobile version of Iron Dome, for domestic and export customers. Photo: Noam Eshel, Defense-Update