Israel is working on a new missile system capable of hitting targets anywhere in the Middle East, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday.
State-owned arms manufacturer Israel Military Industries (IMI) would deliver “within a few years” an advanced integrated system “allowing precise hits by remote launching,” he said in a statement.
Lieberman added that the contract with IMI was budgeted at “hundreds of millions of shekels.”
“The project for setting up a precision rocket and missile system is underway. Part of it is already in production and part is in the final phases of research and development.” Lieberman said. “We are acquiring and developing precision fire systems that will allow… the Israel Defense Forces to cover within a few years every point in the region.”
Israel is considered the leading military power in the Middle East and believed to be the only country in the region to possess nuclear weapons.
Foreign military experts say it has several batteries of its Jericho ballistic missile, capable of delivering nuclear warheads.
IMI said in 2004 that it had produced a cruise missile, the Delilah, with a range of 250 kilometers (150 miles).
It also has an array of anti-missile rocket systems, but Monday’s statement quoted IMI chairman Yitzhak Aharonovitch saying that the new armament would “reflect the company’s technological capabilities, which specialize in the ability to fire accurately, to strike at a variety of ground targets.”
This planned missile corps is believed to act as the offensive counter to the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group’s own huge arsenal of more than 100,000 short- and medium-range rockets.
It will allow Israel to fire at Hezbollah targets from its own territory using a system more precise than artillery fire and ostensibly safer than aerial attacks, which often place pilots and planes in enemy territory.
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.
According to a January report in Yedioth Ahronoth, Liberman met with senior IDF officers and, following a short discussion, ended years of consideration with a decision to form the array, pledging a starting budget of some half a billion shekels, with the potential for far more in the coming years.