Army planning to build Iron Dome-like weapon

The weapon, as envisioned, will be able to counter rocket, artillery and missile attacks against American positions up to 40 miles away, according to a new proposal issued Friday by the Army's missile command, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. 

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In addition to mortars and rockets, the new weapon will also be able to take out unmanned drones that threaten U.S. military installations within the same 40-mile radius according to Army officials. 

Army engineers have dubbed this concept weapon as a "Multi-Role Launcher" and are looking specifically for prototypes that can are "compatible with many of the existing missiles in the DoD inventory and that will be targeted for use with future missile interceptors," according to the service notice. 

But the requirements and specifications outlines for this missile defense weapon mimic those already on the Israeli-built Iron Dome weapon. 

Military officials in Jerusalem have credited its battery of Iron Dome systems for intercepting hundreds of rockets and artillery shells lobbed into Israel by Lebanese fighters based in Gaza and elsewhere. 

In March alone, the three Iron Dome systems deployed in southern Israel successfully intercepted 80 percent of the 300 rockets and mortars fired into the country from Gaza, according to DOD officials. 

In fiscal 2011, Congress approved roughly $200 million for Iron Dome buys. The Pentagon claims the weapon has been vital in repelling short-range rocket and mortar attacks into Israeli territory. 

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in May pledged $70 million in DOD dollars to Israel in to procure additional Iron Dome missile defense systems. The deal was struck during a visit by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Pentagon that month. 

Prior to the Army's announcement, House defense hawks had been pushing the Israeli government to share the development rights for the Iron Dome system with the United States. 

Members of the House Armed Services committee elected to set aside $680 million to assist Israel in buying the Iron Dome weapon in its version of the fiscal 2013 defense spending bill. 

But the money was contingent on Jerusalem sharing the rights to the Iron Dome design with the Defense Department, according to language in the panel's fiscal 2013 defense spending bill. 

The House proposal would share rights to the weapon's proprietary technology "as is consistent with prior U.S.-Israeli missile defense cooperation," the lawmakers wrote. 

In addition, DOD "should explore any opportunity to enter into co-production of the Iron Dome system with Israel, in light of the significant U.S. investment in this system," according to the panel's version of the spending bill.