TEL AVIV, Israel, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Israel will collaborate with India, one of its key arms customers, to develop an integrated missile-defense system intended primarily to counter Chinese nuclear and conventional missiles, and Israeli defense industry executive said.
The U.S. Defense News weekly reports the program, approved by India's Defense Ministry, is a joint effort by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems with India's Defense Research and Development Organization, state-owned Bharat Dynamics Ltd and Bharat Electronics Ltd.
The enterprise sounds remarkably like the four-tier missile defense shield that the Jewish state has developed over the last few years -- accelerated by the 2006 war with Lebanon's Hezbollah, during which northern Israel was battered for 34 days by nearly 4,000 rockets, an unprecedented bombardment of civilian areas, with no defenses.
Defense News reported the proposed system will integrate India's long-range Prithvi air defense missile system, which is understood to be ready for deployment in 2015, with a mobile radar system being developed by BEL in partnership with IAI.
India's DRDO will work with IAI and Rafael on this program. India is currently expanding and upgrading its armed forces and is one of the world's biggest arms importers.
Defense News quoted a Rafael executive attending India's Defexpo defense show as saying the network will involve short-range and medium-range Israeli and Indian systems.
IAI, with heavy U.S. funding, developed the Arrow anti-ballistic system first deployed in 2000. Today, it's almost finished testing the Arrow-3 variant which it has developed with the Boeing Co. of the United States.
Arrow 3 is designed to intercept Iran's Shehab-3 and the more advanced Sejjil-2 ballistic weapons in space outside Earth's atmosphere. It's expected to become operational in 2016.
The larger Arrow-2, currently in service, operates at a lower altitude and will be used as back-up for Arrow 3 to intercept any hostile missiles that get past Arrow-3.
Iron Dome, whose computer system can differentiate between rockets that will impact in populated areas and empty countryside, has by official Israeli tally destroyed 84.2 percent of all rockets it has engaged with its Tamir interceptors since it was deployed in early 2011.
Iron Dome is the bottom rung of the missile defense shield the Israelis are constructing.
Rafael is also developing another system known as David's Sling, which is designed to intercept medium-range missiles, as well as ballistic weapons that get past Arrow-3 and Arrow-2.
Defense News reported the Rafael executive in India said the company has offered to build India a dedicated command, control, communications, computers and intelligence system known as C4I, to integrate with the planned missile defense system.
The new joint program does not yet have a name, but a contract is expected to be signed within six months, Defense News reported.
India has in the past expressed interest in acquiring IAI's Arrow and Rafael's Iron Dome systems, and the Israeli defense companies have clearly hoped to secure lucrative export sales with these systems.
But since the Americans are now involved in the development of these programs and are sharing technology, the Pentagon could block such exports to safeguard these advanced technologies.
Even so, in February 2013 Rafael put its rocket-killing Iron Dome system, and the Stunner interceptor used in David's Sling, on display outside the Jewish state for the first time at the Aero India exhibition in Bangalore, the hub of India's growing high-tech sector.
"The Ministry of Defense has given Rafael the green light to sell the systems to other countries, although no contracts have been reported yet," Israel's Globes business daily reported at the time.
In November 2012, Indian newspapers reported the country's defense planners were considering the acquisition of an indigenous version of Iron Dome.
DRDO scientists had earlier suggested India look at the possibility of a joint development program with Israeli companies to produce an Indian version of the system.
India is slated to spend in excess of $150 billion on modernizing its military over the next decade as it prepares to confront the burgeoning military power of northern neighbor China.
IAI, flagship of Israel's defense industry, secured a $1.1 billion contract with the Indian navy in 2009 to provide the advanced Barak-8 tactical air-defense missile for its warships.