WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Israel are weeks away from reaching a draft agreement on a co-production of Israel's air defense system called David's Sling that the two countries jointly developed, the top U.S. missile defense officer told lawmakers on Thursday.
U.S. Navy Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, or MDA, said discussions and negotiations continued with Israel on the David's Sling system, which passed a series of intercept tests in April and is expected to be operational next year.
Known in Hebrew as Magic Wand, David's Sling is being developed and manufactured jointly by Israel's state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd and Raytheon Co, a top U.S. arms maker.
Robert Scher, assistant defense secretary for strategy, plans and capabilities, said the U.S. government had provided more than $3 billion for missile defense to Israel for David's Sling and other missile defense programs since 2001.
Syring said a draft agreement on co-production of David's Sling should be reached with weeks, with a final agreement likely in several months, but gave no further details.
After that agreement was finalized, U.S. and Israeli officials would discuss co-production of Israel's Arrow ballistic missile defense system, Syring told the strategic forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.
Designed to shoot down rockets with ranges of 100 to 200 km (63 to 125 miles), aircraft or low-flying cruise missiles, David's Sling will fill the operational gap between Israel's Iron Dome short-range rocket interceptor and the Arrow ballistic missile interceptor, both already in service.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Ken Wills)