Photo Credit: Monica King via Wikimedia
US Army Gen. John M. Murray, Commanding General, Army Futures Command, Austin, Texas.

The US Army on Friday activated two new Iron Dome missile defense batteries at Fort Bliss, Texas, as part of evaluating the systems that were recently purchased from Israel, Stars and Stripes reported.

The testing of the Iron Dome is taking place at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, near Fort Bliss. The Army issued a statement saying it plans to spend two months to determine whether the system should be integrated into its range of air defense capabilities.

An Iron Dome Missile launch near Ashdod, 2014. /  David Buimovitch/Flash90

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act ordered the Pentagon to purchase the two Iron Dome batteries and to start testing them in 2020. According to the Army’s statement, the soldiers who will man the two batteries are expected to arrive at Fort Bliss by Monday.

The defense authorization bill set aside $38 million for the initial purchase of the two Iron Dome batteries. The bill noted that “since 2011, Congress has provided over $1.5 billion for the procurement of Iron Dome batteries for the State of Israel, a system with demonstrated capability against a wide-range of threats.” It added that “there is value in experimenting with the Iron Dome system through demonstrations to assess operational suitability for the fixed and semi-fixed site AMD mission, and M–SHORAD missions. Such demonstrations will evaluate challenges associated with integration of the Iron Dome command and control system with the existing AMD C2 system and sensors.”

Therefore, the committee recommended $68 million, an increase of $30 million, to support the acquisition of Iron Dome hardware and associated integration activities, for the operational demonstration of the Iron Dome system against a range of threats.

Iron Dome is a mobile all-weather air defense system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries. The system is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 2.5 to 45 miles whose trajectory would take them to an Israeli populated area. Iron Dome was initially deployed on March 27, 2011, and on April 7, 2011, the system successfully intercepted a Grad rocket launched from Gaza.

Gen. John M. Murray, the first commanding general of United States Army Futures Command (AFC), told Congress earlier this year that despite the fact that Iron Dome was a “very capable and proven” anti-missile weapon, he was not sure it could be easily integrated into the US Air and Missile Defense platform.

On Friday, the Army said it plans to conduct enough testing to get Iron Dome ready for deployment by late 2021, at which point it would be determined in what role to plug Iron Dome in the Army’s future air and missile defense portfolio.


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