The U.S. Army announced today that it has activated two air-defense batteries at Fort Bliss, Texas that will test the Israeli-designed Iron Dome system to see if it can be plugged into the service’s air and missile defense network.
Designed by Rafael Advanced Defense System Limited, the combat-proven Iron Dome features the Tamir interceptor missile, produced by Raytheon. The system is designed to track and destroy enemy missiles and other threats launched from up to 40 miles away.
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 activation of the Iron Dome batteries at Bliss provides the Army with an interim cruise missile defense capability to protect critical fixed and semi-fixed facilities from multiple air and missile threats, according to an Army release.
It’s still not certain whether Iron Dome will meet the Army's needs, modernization officials have said. The system 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.
Gen. John "Mike" Murray, commander of Army Futures Command, told reporters in late May that the Army will make every effort to integrate Iron Dome into the IBSC architecture, but the service is “not interested in standalone systems.”
The Army received the first Iron Dome system in late September and expects to receive the second system by February. The soldiers assigned to the batteries at Bliss will begin training on the Iron Dome systems and testing how well it integrates with the IBCS system in an attempt to reach operational deployment capability, according to the release.
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.
Bruce Jette, the Army’s top acquisition executive, agreed with Murray, explaining IBCS will manage multiple air-defense systems to support each other with detecting and tracking targets, while another system could end up destroying the target.
At the same meeting with reporters in May, Jette acknowledged that Iron Dome was a great air defense system. But, he said, the system’s integration with the IBCS is the "the critical piece that we want to get to."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.