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An Israeli system for intercepting Palestinian rockets should be ready by 2010, Ehud Barak said.

The Israeli defense minister, who was in Washington this week for talks on anti-missile technologies and other strategic issues, was asked about progress on Iron Dome, a system under development that is designed to shoot down short-range Palestinian rockets.

Independent analysts have suggested that Iron Dome could be at least three years from completion, but Barak saw a tighter schedule.

“If all goes well, it should be ready for trials in two-and-a-half years,” he told reporters Wednesday.

Iron Dome would form the lowest tier of a multi-layered missile defense project that Israel and the United States are pursuing together. The next tier, David’s Sling, is designed to counter medium-range rockets like those stockpiled by Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Barak said David’s Sling would take “a little longer” than Iron Dome to reach trials.

The top tier of the multi-layered system is Arrow II, which shoots down ballistic missiles at atmospheric altitudes and has been operational in Israel for several years. Arrow was conceived with Iran’s long-range Shehab missiles and Syria’s Scud missiles in mind.

Barak said he and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had agreed to work on Arrow III, which would have an extended interception range.

“This system would counter missiles that come, effectively, from space,” Barak said.

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