(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today (Tuesday), 22 January 2008, visited Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. and was briefed on the continued development of two anti-missile defense systems, which the Government decided upon approximately one year ago. The Government decided to invest in the development of a multi-layered defensive system to protect Israel’s skies from various types of conventional and non-conventional missiles that are liable to strike at population centers.

The Arrow system is operational today. It is designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles. Just over one year ago, Prime Minister Olmert and then Defense Minister Amir Peretz approved the Iron Dome and Magic Wand anti-missile systems. The latter is designed to defend against 40-250 kilometer-range missiles.  When it is operational, it will protect Israeli citizens against missiles such as the Fajr and Zilzal. Iron Dome is designed to intercept 4-70 kilometer-range rockets such as the Kassam, Grad and Katyusha.

Prime Minister Olmert was briefed by Rafael Chairman of the Board Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Ilan Biran and Rafael Director-General Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yedidya Yaari regarding the development of the aforementioned systems, which are among the most advanced in the world. The Prime Minister also inspected the Stunner missile, which will be used in the Magic Wand system, and the missile that will be used in the Iron Dome system.

The Defense Ministry has requested that the Iron Dome system be prepared for deployment as soon as possible. It is currently due to be operational by early 2010, when it will be deployed in the south of the country. The Rafael directors emphasized that no system currently in use, including those incorporating lasers, are able to provide a solution to Kassams.

Prime Minister Olmert asked the Rafael directors to make every effort to accelerate the development of the Iron Dome system, which will be used – first and foremost – to protect residents of the south against Kassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip: "My Government was the first to decide on the development and deployment of defensive systems against the short-range missiles that threaten the Israeli home front. I am proud of the ability of our defense industries to respond to the challenge set by the Government. I ask you to develop the Iron Dome system as quickly as possible and to provide us the possibility of deploying as many Iron Dome systems as possible."