JERUSALEM, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- A lack of funding for a new missile-interception system could leave Israel open to future attacks, defense industry officials have told Haaretz.
The officials said not having a regular government funding plan could jeopardize the $100 million project, since short-sighted budgeting may prevent contractors from meeting the government's April 2009 deadline for deploying anti-ballistic rocket systems near population centers.
The Iron Dome would employ the Israel military's early warning radar system to identify short-range Qassam rockets and protect against Hezbollah and Syria's Katyusha missiles.
Although the budget for Iron Dome is expected to be depleted by the end of this year, officials at Rafael, the national authority for the development of weapons and military technology, told Haaretz it could take 18 months for the system to be operational.
A senior defense industry official said the Iron Dome project "is advancing at a very slow pace, which contradicts the Cabinet's resolutions on quickly setting up active defenses for towns and cities near the Gaza Strip and the border with Lebanon."
Defense Ministry officials said a plan for financing the Iron Dome may be addressed in a defense budget forum scheduled for next week.