Israel said set to build up vast medium-range missile array
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Israel said set to build up vast medium-range missile array

To counter Hezbollah, Defense Minister Liberman reportedly approves half-billion shekel initial funding for project

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

An Israel Military Industries EXTRA missile is fired from its launcher. (Israel Military Industries)
An Israel Military Industries EXTRA missile is fired from its launcher. (Israel Military Industries)

Under instruction from Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, the Israel Defense Forces is planning to create a vast network of medium-range surface-to-surface missile systems, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported on Friday.

This planned missile corps is reportedly meant to act as the offensive counter to the Hezbollah terrorist group’s own vast arsenal of more than 100,000 short- and medium-range rockets, to complement the military’s existing defensive multi-tiered missile interceptor network.

The report could not be independently confirmed by the Times of Israel.

The notion of forming such an arsenal of ground-based missiles and a dedicated corps responsible for it has been bandied about in the IDF General Staff for years, but ultimately these types of missiles have remained in limited use and under the purview of the air force, which also reportedly operates long-range varieties, like the Jericho.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, center, speaks with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, right, as the head of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, right, watches on, during a visit to a large IDF drill in northern Israel on September 12, 2017. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

According to the Yedioth article, on January 4 Liberman met with senior IDF officers and, following a short discussion, ended years of consideration and decided to form the array, pledging a starting budget of some half-a-billion shekels, with the potential for far more in the coming years.

Initial aspects of the formation of the corps were reportedly set to be completed by 2020.

The Defense Minister’s office would not comment on the matter.

For now, the corps will be outfitted with Extended Range Artillery — or EXTRA — missiles that are manufactured by Israel Military Industries (IMI), according to Yedioth.

EXTRA missiles have a maximum range of 150 kilometers (93 miles) and can carry a 120-kilogram (265-pound) warhead, according to IMI.

According to the report, these might be replaced with longer-range models that can be accurately fired twice as far.

Navy gunboats are also meant to be outfitted with these EXTRA missiles, and a specially adapted model is also supposed to be created for the air force, under the IDF Planning Directorate’s proposal.

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