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



  1. Some comments here: It is very strange, that the IAF is STILL using only the non-mobile variants of Iron-Dome batteries. Considering the large variety of threats confronting Israel, both in the South and in the North, coupled with the very few batteries currently available, the ONE AND ONLY OBVIOUS choice for the IDF should be the mobile variants, mounted on the 8×8, lightly armored, large MAN trucks (or ANY terrain, lightly armored trucks!), to be able to redeploy such batteries as quickly as possible, according to the threat picture, in stead of Tamir missiles quite absurdly mounted on these ancient looking “iron-bed” frames!! After all, the cost of such trucks is just a small, tiny part of the overall cost of manufacturing an Iron Dome Battery!! Author says: “three batteries already deployed”. Israeli MOD said at the beginning of January, that the fourth battery is about to be deployed any time now – since it’s almost May now, one has to presume, that the IAF now has FOUR batteries deployed. Arithmetic doesn’t seem to be exact science in this article: President Obama’s gift of some 205 million $ is supposed to totally finance four extra Iron Dome batteries. If so, this new proposed gift by the US Congress of 680 million USD, according to the proportionality principle, should finance some another 13 new Iron Dome batteries (all in all 17 US financed batteries, very impressive indeed!!) — And NOT only FOUR additional batteries, which the Israeli ministry is seeking from the US, for the very similar amount of 700 million $.

  2. typical. israel must protect as much for itself as it can and freedom of movement on this. the usa is not a fair player. worldwide. its idea of a level playing field is a tilt table 45 degrees in its favour. they should pay much much more for these rights and knowledgeable. and proprietary info. patents then should stay with israel.

  3. I tend to agree with Marek, as I used UPI I didn’t want to change, therefore I left it at ‘at least four’, but I think the requested $680 will pay for the entire requirement for Israel’s Iron Dome new units plus replenishment missiles etc, for four years.

    • Yes, if we count these first FOUR IAF’s now operational & deployed Iron Dome batteries as financed entirely from the Israeli taxpayers’ pockets, and add to them perhaps as many as totally 17 future new batteries financed by the very generous US grants (205 million $ + 680 million $), then the total amount of batteries can reach a number of 21 — almost as good a situation as in the best Amir Peretz’s dream……

  4. Marek

    Based on the two pictures the MAN truck appears to be just used for transport purposes and the system must be removed from the truck to set up.
    Being portable doesn’t mean you can just fire it off the back of the truck.

    Its not exactly small and lightweight but it is portable and easy enough to load up and unload.

    As more people buy Iron Dome then more money will be invested into the system and eventually the thing will get smaller and lighter until if really can be mounted on a truck and fired from the truck.

    Considering how expensive Iron Dome is to buy and operate with each interceptor costing around $50,000 the IDF needs the thing to sell well abroad because economies of scale drives down prices and the IDF cannot reasonably for the US to fund every battery they want.
    Right now Obama is in an election year and so if Israel wants the US to fund the purchase of a missile defense system it doesn’t go down well with the pro Israel voters but once the election is over the US will find it much easier to say enough is enough.

    • Brett – I do not think so, regarding this Rafael’s proposal for the mobile Iron Dome battery system. You can clearly see four powerful hydraulic lifters mounted on the corners of MAN truck – I believe that their sole and only purpose is to enable firing Tamirs directly from the truck – without any dismantling of the “iron bed frame” from the truck. Regarding the Tamir missile price per unit, Rafael had said before, that when the real mass-production will start, the price per unit may go down from the current 50 000 USD to some 25 000 USD.

  5. Paul

    The US hasn’t invested a penny into the development of Iron Dome it was funded in full by Israeli taxpayers.

    The contribution from the US has been the purchase of a number of batteries for the IDF, gifts made because Obama is in an election year and funding Israel’s missile defense systems goes down well with the Jewish voters in key battleground states like Florida.

    If the US choses to agree to provide the IDF with the funding they need to buy more Iron Dome batteries then no matter the reason why they agreed to this funding it should not give them any rights to the system itself.
    For once Israel has a potential export that the US cannot use its veto to block the sale of because there was US investment in its development but if Rafael gives them that stake then just watch it very quickly become a system that cannot be sold without US permission and that independence will be lost.

    Neither the Israeli government or Rafael should give into American pressure even if it means the Israeli government will have to fund the aquissition of more batteries.

  6. Here’s a thought.

    Maybe if the U.S. drilled for its own oil it wouldn’t have to (a) keep spending so much for importing oil (b) could stop giving the muslims billions in aid and then (c) Israel wouldn’t need so much money to spend to on weapons systems to defend against THE MUSLIMS AMERICA IS ARMING.

  7. Are you sure that the system was 100% funded by the Isreali government? I had the impression that it was privately funded by Rafael due to lack of government interest initially. The government finally bought a few batteries, but technically the rights belong to Rafael.

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