Israel to Deploy Gaza Rocket Interceptor by June

Defense establishment aces trial of barrage interception, marking end to Iron Dome development period.

An Israeli interceptor system developed to shoot down the short-range rockets and mortar bombs used by Palestinian guerrillas will be deployed outside the Gaza Strip by June, a defense official said on Wednesday.

The defense establishment this week successfully intercepted multiple salvoes in field trials using the newly developed Iron Dome system, the IDF announced, adding that military air-defense units were already training on it.

"Our plan is to be operational by the mid-point of 2010," the official said.

During tests conducted over the course of the last few days, the system managed to intercept a number of rockets, by simultaneously launching its own target missiles.

Over the summer, the Iron Dome passed its first live trial in intercepting the short-range rockets favored by Palestinian and Lebanese guerrillas.

Iron Dome's success could improve the prospects of Israel eventually ceding West Bank land to the Palestinians, as Israeli officials have said that any withdrawals should be conditional on the deployment of a reliable defense against rocket attacks.

Designed by state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., Iron Dome uses small guided missiles to blow up Katyusha-style rockets. Israel plans to station the first working unit outside the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip next year.

Iron Dome would be capable of intercepting rockets with ranges of between 5 km (2 miles) and 70 km (45 miles), the official said.

The project was spurred by Israel's 2006 war with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, during which 4,000 rockets rained down on its northern border communities.

Israel has seen similar attacks by Palestinian guerrillas in Gaza, from which it withdrew in 2005. A surge in the salvoes prompted an Israeli offensive last December which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, many of them civilians.