TEL AVIV, Israel, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- For the first time, Israel has put its rocket-killing Iron Dome air defense system, plus the Stunner interceptor used by the David's Sling system, on display outside the Jewish state in a mounting export drive for the defensive weapons.
"Israeli companies have targeted India as a key market for the coming years, in part because of its huge defense budgets for the procurement of advanced weapons systems," the Israeli business daily Globes observed.
Iron Dome and David's Sling are both products of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, one of Israel's leading defense contractors. They were showcased at the Aero India 2013 exhibition in Bangalore, hub of India's high-tech sector, last week.
"The Ministry of Defense has given Rafael the Green Light to sell the systems to other countries, although no contracts have been reported yet," Globes observed.
India, a major buyer of Israeli defense systems, is the world's biggest arms importer. Its total military expenditure in 2011, excluding nuclear weapons, was $44.28 billion, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said.
It's expected to spend up to $150 billion at home and abroad on modernizing its military over the next decade as it prepares to confront China's burgeoning military power, particularly in the Indian Ocean, a key oil supply route from the Middle East.
Iron Dome, the first system of its kind, is a mobile, all-weather air-defense system that has attracted global interest following its success in combating Palestinian rockets the last two years.
The system, first deployed operationally in March 2011, was designed to intercept missiles with a range of 43 miles but an upgraded version of the system, with an extended range of 156 miles, intercepted around 87 percent of rockets it engaged in an eight-day battle between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in November.
In a major 2012 clash, earlier variants of the system, downed around 80 percent of targets engaged.
By calculating the trajectories of incoming missiles, Iron Dome's battle management system can distinguish between those that will hit populated areas and those heading for uninhabited locations.
It fires Tamir interceptors, using ELM-2084 radars built by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries' Elta division. It is also considered effective against aircraft up to an altitude of 32,800 feet.
The United States has funded much of the Iron Dome program, including more than $400 million over the last two years.
Rafael's David's Sling, being developed with the Raytheon Co. of the United States, is designed to counter missiles with a range of 45-187 miles. Its two-stage interceptor underwent successful test-firings in November 2012 and the system's to become operational in 2014.
The prospect of upcoming Israeli sales to India's military appeared to increase with the visit in January of India's air force commander, Air Marshal Nak Browne.
Military sources said he was particularly interested in upgrading his fleet of Israeli-built unmanned surveillance vehicles and acquiring the advanced missile defense systems Israel is developing as part of a four-tier anti-missile shield.
India has been discussing a potential "buy and build" deal involving Iron Dome, the only one of four air-defense systems under development to have been tested in combat.
The Indians also want to produce the system under license. Globes reported in December the Indians say Israel has agreed to such a sale.
If the Israeli Defense Ministry has indeed authorized Rafael to export Iron Dome, it must have cleared this first with the United States, which has financed much of Iron Dome's development.
India also expressed interest in Israel's Arrow-2 anti-ballistic missile system, one of the most advanced missile defense systems operational and jointly manufactured by IAI and the Boeing Co. of the United States.
But the technology transfer involved could impede any sale since U.S. approval would be required. Washington has provided the lion's share of the development of Arrow, first deployed in 2000.
Since 1988, the United States has provided more than $1 billion in grants for research and development through the defense budget.
Arrow-3 is currently being developed. Once operational, it will be able to intercept ballistic missiles outside Earth's atmosphere.
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