Israel’s Rafael initiated emergency, round-the-clock operations last week to meet intensifying demand for Iron Dome intercepting missiles (shown here) and the accelerated deployment of a fifth battery to defend against Gaza-launched rockets and missiles. (AFP)
TEL AVIV — Israel’s Rafael initiated emergency, round-the-clock operations last week to meet intensifying demand for Iron Dome intercepting missiles and the accelerated deployment of a fifth battery to defend against Gaza-launched rockets and missiles.
The state-owned company added a nighttime shift Nov. 14 as Israel’s four operational Iron Dome batteries scored more than 100 intercepts in battles against persistent barrage attacks. In parallel, engineers and program officials were working with Israel’s Ministry of Defense to conclude the development of the newest Block-2 upgrades scheduled for a fifth battery slated for deployment over the weekend.
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“We’re working three shifts and weekends to respond to MoD’s request to speed additional capabilities into the battle,” a company executive here said.
He credited a special U.S. appropriation of $205 million for enabling the accelerated push to deploy additional interceptors and the newest Block-2 version of the Iron Dome intercepting system.
“Without a doubt, if it wasn’t for the U.S. $205 million, we would be facing a serious operational deficiency in our inventories,” he said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the latest Block-2 Iron Dome battery to be delivered to operational units of Israel’s Air Defense Forces by the evening of Nov. 17, two months ahead of schedule.
“The fifth battery that is currently in development has displayed impressive capabilities in a series of advanced tests that have taken place during recent weeks. However, following recent events, MoD decided to take the battery out of the test-firing arena and move it over to the operational arena,” MoD announced Nov. 16.
Defense and industry sources said the Block-2 Iron Dome battery draws on lessons gained since its operational deployment in spring 2011. The upgraded battery has the same hardware as the previous four batteries, but software changes and operational tweaking expand its coverage area and help it defend against increasingly challenging salvo attacks.
“There’s still a lot of potential for improved capabilities,” an industry executive said. “What we’ve done in Block-2 is expand the operational envelope. But like an iceberg, there’s still huge capabilities under the surface that remain to be seen.”
In nearly a week of cross-border escalation, Israeli airstrikes took out more than 450 targets throughout the Hamas-controlled strip, while militants south of the border launched more than 300 rockets and missiles, some of which reached the outskirts of Tel Aviv.