Israel has examined the prospect of developing long-range, precision-strike artillery that could destroy missile batteries in such countries as Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and Syria.

Officials said the Defense Ministry was considering proposals from defense contractors for a platform that could rapidly detect and respond to missile threats from as far as 100 kilometers. The ministry was reviewing emerging military requirements for land-based artillery that could bolster airborne missile defense capabilities.

The General Staff has not set a requirement for long-range artillery, officials said. But commanders, particularly those in the Ground Forces Command and the Planning Division, have assessed that Israel would come under major threat from short- and medium-range rockets obtained by Palestinian insurgency groups, Hizbullah and Syria.

“There are several options to the short- and medium-range rocket threat,” an official said. “One is to respond with ground forces, which could take anywhere from several hours to several days. The other is to develop an airborne defense, which would not be particularly effective. The last is to build a system in which they could fire no more than one missile or rocket before we track and destroy their launchers.”

The concept of using long-range and precision-strike artillery has been endorsed by several leading commanders, including Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz. Funding support has also come from leading parliamentarians, including Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Yuval Steinitz.

Officials said the medium- and long-range rockets would be networked by a command, control, communications, computer and intelligence system. The C4I system, linked to radars and intelligence systems, would be capable of responding within seconds to enemy missile and rocket fire.

Israel has developed two medium- and long-range rockets over the last three years. Israel Aircraft Industries has developed the single-stage solid-fuel Long Range Artillery, or LORA, which could reach a range of up to 300 kilometers. LORA, which succeeded in four of five live-fire tests, was said to have a warhead of 570 kilograms. LORA was said to have a circle error of probability of less than five meters.

Israel Military Industries has developed the Ramam Trajectory Corrected System, which could convert Multiple Launch Rocket Systems to precision weapons. The MLRS has a range of up to 45 kilometers, but Lockheed Martin has been developing an extended-range version that could reach 70 kilometers.

Officials have termed Ramam a successful attempt to extend the land arm of the Israeli military. The system has already been deployed on MLRS batteries.

IMI has also developed EXTRA, with a range of more than 130 kilometers and a CEP of 10 meters. EXTRA, with a 125-kilogram warhead and planned for its first live-fire test in 2006, marked a partnership of IAI and IMI.

Officials said the emerging technology would also obviate the need for air strikes on enemy and rocket missile batteries. They said in a comprehensive war, this would ensure that the Israel Air Force was used for offensive missions, rather than to protect Israeli communities.