Army Gets First Iron Dome Battery from Israel

The Iron Dome air-defense system fires to intercept a rocket over the city of Ashdod, Israel.
The Iron Dome air-defense system fires to intercept a rocket over the city of Ashdod on July 8, 2014, in Ashdod, Israel. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

Israel's Ministry of Defense has delivered the first of two "Iron Dome" indirect-fire protection systems to the U.S. Army, but it's still uncertain whether the technology will fit into the service's modernization vision.

Rafael Advanced Defense System Limited's Iron Dome features the Tamir interceptor missile, produced by Raytheon, which is capable of engaging incoming threats launched from up to 40 miles away. Rafael announce the system’s delivery to the Army Sept. 30.

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"The Iron Dome system, as a part of [Israel's] multi-layered missile defense system, reflects the strength of the Israeli defense establishment," Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a Rafael news release. "As a result of the effectiveness of this system, many deaths were prevented on the home front of southern Israel. ... I am proud that this advanced system will also protect U.S. Army troops."

The Army announced its plans to purchase Iron Dome in February 2019 to comply with the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which required the service to equip ground forces with two Iron Dome Batteries by 2020. The U.S. signed the formal deal with Israel in August 2019, according to the release.

Rafael officials said that Iron Dome has participated in multiple Army tests at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

"To date, we have conducted three demonstrations and intercepted targets chosen by the U.S. Army for the Iron Dome system," Pini Yungman, Rafael executive vice president and head of its Air and Missile Defense Division, said in the release.

But it's unclear whether Iron Dome will meet the Army's need for an interim indirect-fire protection capability, which modernization officials say will have to demonstrate its ability to plug into the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS, that the service has chosen to manage all of its air defense sensors and interceptor systems.

The Army expects to receive the second Iron Dome battery by February and plans to spend next spring trying to ensure that the systems can work effectively with IBCS, according to service modernization officials.

The Iron Dome systems will then compete in an Army shoot-off event in fall 2021; the event is open to all defense firms that can demonstrate that their systems can plug into IBCS.

Next year, Iron Dome will complete 10 years of operational activity with more than 2,400 target interceptions, according to the Rafael release.

"It is a great privilege for the State of Israel to deliver the first out of two Iron Dome batteries to the U.S. Army," Moshe Patel Rafael, the head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, said in the release. "The very fact that we are handing over the first battery, a year after the agreement was signed, is an achievement in itself."

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