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Thursday, June 17, 2010     GET REAL

U.S. firm researching Israelis' methodology for fast-tracking missile defense systems

TEL AVIV — A U.S. defense major is closely reviewing Israel's method of developing major weapons systems.


Raytheon has been working with Israel's state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to develop a tactical missile defense system that could intercept a range of projectiles.

"We are actually learning from Rafael different ways to develop systems and of doing business," Raytheon director of force protection, Christopher King, said. "The work with Rafael will make us better."

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Over the last two years, Raytheon has been learning Israel's fast-track design and development doctrine.

In an address to Israel's first multi-national ballistic missile defense conference on May 5, King said Raytheon has been employing Israel's development doctrine in what he said could be used in the United States. King said the development of David's Sling, meant to intercept missiles with a range of up to 280 kilometers, has changed thinking in much of the U.S. company. In 2007, Raytheon and Rafael signed a contract to begin development of David's Sling. The system, which features the Stunner interceptor, has sought to capitalize on air-to-air missile technology to produce a projectile that could destroy a range of incoming weapons.

"Many in Raytheon said David's Sling wouldn't work," King said. "It will work."

King recalled the relationship between Raytheon and Rafael. He said engineers from both companies have overcome cultural and other differences to produce a cutting-edge missile defense system.

"When we meet, we tease each other who is the first and second best missile company in the world," King said. "The jury is out on that."

King said Raytheon has been impressed by the high-level Israeli government involvement in David's Sling. He pointed to the attendance of Israel Missile Defense Organization director Arieh Herzog at a preliminary design review in Tel Aviv in late April 2010.

"This would never happen in the U.S. — even for the F-22 [fighter-jet]," King said.

Herzog led a delegation from the Defense Ministry's IMDO and asked numerous and detailed questions of the David's Sling program. King did not elaborate but said Herzog's knowledge of the missile defense project was stunning.

"They're smart, they're tough and they're competent," King said of the Israelis. "I can assure you that nobody from the West, including the United States, can argue with the Israelis."

King said Raytheon has been most impressed by Israel's fast-track development approach. He said the approach called for rapid design and development of a prototype meant for testing.

"You build a little bit very rapidly, test it and then go on to the qualification process," King told the audience filled with Israeli engineers. "We [in the United States] go through the whole planning stage and usually it still doesn't work."

King said Raytheon wanted to expand its relationship with Rafael and Israel's missile defense program. He cited the Iron Dome short-range missile and rocket defense project, which went from contract to operational prototype in 34 months.

"I wish Raytheon was part of that [Iron Dome]," King said. "That is absolutely impressive. This is where we should be."

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