The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has recognised the efficiency of Israel's "Iron Dome" rocket interceptor system, and will allocate special funds to acquire additional batteries of equipment.

Israel's air force has identified a need to stand up 15 Iron Dome batteries to cover all "relevant" launch sections, with about five currently operational. The extra US budget will not be enough to cover all the remaining systems required, Israeli sources say.

For the first time within the framework of its regular annual budget, the MDA has requested $220 million for Iron Dome batteries in fiscal year 2014, which begins on 1 October, plus an additional $175 million for FY2015.

If approved through the annual defence budget process, the extra money could come on top of the $486 million the White House and Congress have requested or added for the Iron Dome system in recent years after formal budgets were submitted. This includes $211 million in the defence appropriations bill for 2013, which US President Barack Obama signed into force in March.

The $220 million request for FY2014 "is new money, and it is the first time funding specifically for Iron Dome procurement has been requested in our budget submission", the MDA says.

In 2012, House and Senate defence committees signalled an intention to approve spending up to $680 million on Iron Dome until 2015.

During recent fighting in the Gaza Strip, the Iron Dome system intercepted more than 90% of the targeted M-21 "Grad" and Kassam rockets launched into Israel.

Developed by Rafael, the mobile defence system is intended to destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells away from areas of civilian population.

Each battery consists of a tracking radar, battle management and weapons control, and missile firing units, as well as interceptors capable of detonating threats from ranges up to 38nm (70km).

Source: Flight International