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Funded by US, now Israel's Iron Dome maker expects to sell it back

A Rafael official says that the anti-missile system will be sold to the US Army, Israeli financial paper reports
Israeli soldiers patrol near an Iron Dome defence system in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (AFP)

The Israeli manufacturer of the Iron Dome missile defence system predicts the US military will make a purchase order for the anti-missile defence system within the next year, an Israeli financial paper reported on Wednesday.

“In the coming Hebrew year, we will see the first commercial export of the Iron Dome to the ground forces of US Army,” Pini Yungman, head of the missile defence systems directorate for Iron Dome’s manufacturer, Rafael, told Globes.

No sales have been confirmed as of yet, but that they are expected “soon”, he said.

Since 2010, American funding for the system has totalled $5.5bn

A single Iron Dome missile costs $50,000, while an entire battery of missiles and the mechanism required to control them costs $50m.

“American taxpayers fund parts of the Iron Dome programme, and it’s the right of the American military to benefit from this system as well,” Yungman added.

Since 2010, American funding for the system has totalled $5.5bn. In 2018, Congress apportioned an additional $705mn for Israeli air defence, according to Globes.

More than two-thirds of the components that make up the Iron Dome are produced by firms based in the US, then assembled in northern Israel.

Yungman’s appraisal is believed to signal that Rafael has finally managed to package all of the associated components of the Iron Dome system onto a single vehicle.

Such a vehicle, armed and assigned to soldiers in the field, would be poised to defend troops against short-distance missile attacks, Globes noted.

Rafael has been trying to find foreign buyers for the Iron Dome system ever since the Israeli armed forces began to use the system in 2011.

The system was used extensively during Israel’s 2012 and 2014 assaults on Gaza, to shoot down Hamas rockets. Analysts have noted that its use in these instances have provided Rafael with a chance to demonstrate the system’s abilities and entice potential clients.

In recent years, possible sales of the system to Romania and Azerbaijan have been discussed.

Saudi Arabia deal denied

Just two weeks ago, London-based Al-Khaleej Online reported that Israeli officials had overcome their misgivings and consented to sell the Iron Dome system to Saudi Arabia, on the condition that it not be used against any of Israel’s allies in the region.

The system, according to the report, is expected to arrive in the kingdom within three months and will be used to intercept missiles shot by Houthi revels in Yemen.

Both Rafael and the Israeli government, however, have publicly denied any deal to provide the Saudis with the system.

If the agreement materialises, it is expected to usher in additional purchases of Israeli-made weapons systems.

Specific elements of the Iron Dome system have been sold to Israeli allies for some time, Globes reported, totaling tens of millions of dollars in sales. Up to ten countries, including India and Canada, have purchased Rafael’s MMR, the Iron Dome’s radar system.

The Iron Dome has shot down approximately 1,800 targets over Israeli skies in the last seven years, according to Globes.

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