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Rafael, Raytheon Reach Deal on ‘American’ Iron Dome
A missile launched by the Iron Dome system intercepts an incoming rocket from the Gaza Strip last November. (Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Rafael, Raytheon Reach Deal on ‘American’ Iron Dome

Hugely successful air defense missile system to be produced in US, sold abroad

Raytheon Technologies, one of the world’s largest defense contractors, and the Israeli company Rafael have agreed to work together to manufacture Israel’s Iron Dome short-range air defense system in the United States for the US military and its allies.

The US-built version will deploy a missile that Raytheon calls the SkyHunter, which is a development of the Tamir used in Israel’s Iron Domes.

The system was developed in Israel more than a decade ago with Raytheon’s assistance. Over the years, it has shot down hundreds of rockets aimed at Israel by Hamas, the group that rules the Gaza Strip, and by Islamic Jihad. Iron Dome has a reported success rate of more than 90%.

Ami Rojkes Dombe, a defense and technology analyst and editor at IsraelDefense magazine, detailed the background behind the landmark deal.

“Rafael is dependent on the Israeli defense budget; half of its income is from the Israeli Defense Ministry,” he told The Media Line.

Rafael is dependent on the Israeli defense budget; half of its income is from the Israeli Defense Ministry

“Because of the latest military aid agreement between Israel and the US [which calls for a drastic reduction in US dollars that can be used by Israel for in-house purchases], Rafael was in trouble. It was forced to look elsewhere for buyers,” he explained.

Dombe describes the contract as the end-result of intersecting interests.

“Rafael can now market its Tamir missiles to the world through its better-connected American partner, which has a larger marketing umbrella than Rafael ever will,” he said.

“The Israeli government,” he went on, “will be able to purchase American-made Iron Dome systems with its American military aid – which it will soon be allowed to use only in dollars, not Israeli shekels. And it will also buy them at a cheaper cost because the production cost in the US is… lower than in Israel.”

From a US standpoint, Dombe says, the arms deal “effectively eliminates a major competitor… in this specific sector of the defense market,” as it “widens Raytheon’s catalog and creates jobs in the US.”

The project will be the first complete-assembly, or all-up-around, Iron Dome facility outside of Israel and “will help the US Department of Defense and allies across the globe obtain the system for defense of their service members and critical infrastructure,” Sam Deneke, Raytheon’s vice president for land warfare and air defense business execution, said in statement.

For Uzi Rubin, founder and director of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Israel Missile Defense Organization and today a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, the deal is no surprise. In fact, he believes it is long overdue.

“While [the US] has no short-range rockets threatening its own soil, you can see what’s happening right now in Iraq or places like Yemen or Saudi Arabia,” Rubin told The Media Line.

“It took them a while to realize it,” he joked, “but the American army, wherever it’s stationed around the world, faces these kinds of threats. Today, every young militia fighter has as many rockets, GRAD missiles or Iranian weapons that he wants. [Short-range missiles] are the weapon du jour of anyone battling American troops.”

It took them a while to realize it, but the American army, wherever it’s stationed around the world, faces these kinds of threats. Today, every young militia fighter has as many rockets, GRAD missiles or Iranian weapons that he wants

As to reports of concern in Israel about the Iron Dome’s classified technology reaching foreign hands, Dombe says this is a non-story.

“Once you develop weapons in partnership with the US, like Rafael did here, they [the US] have access to your technologies,” he explained.

“Raytheon already has the codes,” he said. “It’s had them since the beginning. The Americans aren’t playing games; they financed this system. Of course they have the know-how. Nothing changes now.”

Rubin, who was twice awarded the prestigious Israel Defense Prize for his contributions to Israel’s security and defense, agrees there’s no reason to worry.

“This is America we’re talking about,” he says. “If we can’t rely on them, who can we rely on?”

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