Iron Dome Deployed Near Sderot
Israel deployed an Iron Dome rocket interceptor system outside Sderot on Thursday, Reuters reports.
Sderot sits just 4 km. from Gaza and has borne the brunt of rocket and mortar attacks fired by terrorists in the region.
Military analysts say the deployment marked a readiness for the system to deal with short-range rocket and mortar attacks despite some skepticism from independent experts about the system's capabilities.
The Hamas terror organization has been testing Iron Dome by firing rockets into Israel in the hopes of finding weak spots in the defense it provides.
Initially deployed in March, Iron Dome won high praise fro US and Israeli officials for successfully intercepting eight of nine Katyusha-style rockets fired at two southern Israeli cities from Gaza in one day.
"Iron Dome has passed field trials for threats with ranges of between four kilometres to 40 kilometres, so this deployment tests the lower-most end of that spectrum," Uzi Rubin, a missile designer who consults for Israel's Defense Ministry, told Reuters.
Noting the recent ebbing in violence along the Gaza frontier, Rubin said: "Let's hope action by Iron Dome is not required. But as a rule, Israel does not bring systems that are not operational into a war zone."
Seeing Iron Dome initially deployed in Be'er Sheva and Ashkelon led residents of Sderot to accuse Israel's government of neglecting their defenses in favor of the two industrial cities whose inland locations were harder to hit from Gaza.
But on Thursday a military source said the deployment was part of a "rotation" of Israel's two Iron Domes - which were delivered early - while more of the $50 million batteries are prepared.
Israel wants 10 to 15 Iron Dome units to defend its Gaza and Lebanese fronts.
The United States announced last week it planned to help Israel buy four new Iron Domes after budgeting $203.8 million in congressional funding for the system for 2011.
Despite the entrenched economic challenges in Washington that have led to a clash between Republican and Democratic lawmakers over budget issues - funds for joint US-Israel weapons development programs reached an all-time high with funding for the Arrow 2, Arrow 3, David's Sling and Iron Dome systems breaking USD 1 billion since 2007.
"Given America's significant budget challenges, every single dollar we are expending on behalf of the U.S. taxpayer must be given the highest level of scrutiny, including funds appropriated toward the defense of the United States and its allies. It is a mark of the importance of these jointly developed missile defense programs - Arrow 2, Arrow 3, and David's Sling - that they were all robustly funded by our Subcommittee," Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ) told Politco.com.
Joint development programs mutually benefit both the US and Israel by advancing both nation's respective military technology bases while serving as a shot in the arm for US defense contractors from whom Israel buys most such systems.