US Army confirms Iron Dome air defence system purchase

Harry Lye 13 August 2019 (Last Updated June 2nd, 2020 10:45)

The US Army has finalised a contract to purchase two Israeli Iron Dome missile defence system batteries to shore up its interim missile defence capabilities, potentially paving the way for a permanent solution.

US Army confirms Iron Dome air defence system purchase
Iron Dome system in Ashdod intercepts a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. Credits: Israel Defence Forces.

The US Army has finalised a contract to purchase two Israeli Iron Dome missile defence system batteries to shore up its interim missile defence capabilities, potentially paving the way for a permanent solution.

The deal was revealed at the Space and Missile Defence Symposium in Alabama as reported by Defense News. The US Army first began looking into buying the platform in early 2019.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have used Iron Dome, jointly built by Raytheon, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, since 2011 to protect Israel from rocket attacks with a near 90% success rate.

International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) senior fellow for military aerospace Douglas Barrie told Army Technology: “The procurement is likely aimed at evaluation of the system as a force protection asset for the army to counter rocket and mortar fire as well as some classes of missiles.”

Army Technology reached out to Rafael, however, the company said it was unable to comment on the purchase.

The move comes in response to a congressional mandate for the US Army to deploy two new anti-air batteries by 2020. The Iron Dome system will provide interim defence capabilities to the US Army after it identified a capability gap in defence against cruise missile, rocket and artillery attacks.

The US Army will assess the system to see whether to include Iron Dome in future defence planning for its Indirect Fires Protection programme.

US Army Air Missile Defence Cross-Functional Team deputy director Daryl Youngman told Defense News: “We’re conducting analysis and experimentation for enduring IFPC,”

He added: “So that includes some engineering-level analysis and simulations to determine the performance of multiple options, including Iron Dome — or pieces of Iron Dome — and then how we integrate all of that into the [integrated air and missile defence] system.”

The US as part of its ongoing military partnership with Israel has spent $1.4bn on the Iron Dome programme over its lifetime. Raytheon joined the programme in 2014 as part of a co-production deal moving some assembly of the system to the US.

Barrie added: “In terms of its operational use in Israel the system has been designed to be able to deal with salvo fires of rockets, prioritising which represent a threat to the defended area and which to ignore given the rocket’s trajectory.”

The Iron Dome short-range air defence system can neutralise targets at a range of 2.5 to 45 miles (4-70km). The system in Israel uses ten batteries, each including three of four Iron Dome launchers. Each launcher in the system can carry up to 20 Tamir missiles and houses its own radar. For efficiency, the system will not engage incoming projectiles expected to land in uninhabited areas.

Due to the success of Iron Dome and increasing interest from other countries forces, Raytheon has developed a US-built version of the system called SkyHunter.

Iron Dome is currently used by Israel, India, Romania and Azerbaijan. The UK Ministry of Defence expressed an interest in buying the system in 2011 for use in Afghanistan and Iraq.