WASHINGTON — A Ukrainian cargo plane that landed in Israel Aug. 3 carried trucks that will be used to support Iron Dome battery testing ahead of delivery in the United States, U.S. Army Futures Command confirmed.
The Ukrainian plane was used to transport the trucks because of its capability to meet load requirements and delivery timelines, an AFC spokeswoman told Defense News.
The U.S. Army has bought two Iron Dome batteries to fill a cruise missile threat gap as an interim solution while it continues to shape its future Indirect Fires Protection Capability being developed to battle against not just cruise missiles but unmanned aircraft threats, rockets, artillery and mortars.
Congress mandated the Army buy and field two batteries no later than the end of fiscal 2020.
The Oshkosh vehicles will be mated with the Iron Dome system and then be delivered to the United States in that form following factory acceptance testing in Israel.
The first battery is expected to be shipped to the United States in December and the second in February, Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch, the U.S. Army’s program executive officer for missiles and space, said at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium Aug. 4.
While the Army has said it will not buy all-up Iron Dome systems as part of the IFPC program, officials developing the capability are considering incorporating parts of Iron Dome in the final solution.
The service will conduct a shoot-off of best available options for integration into an enduring IFPC solution in the third quarter of fiscal year 2021.
Rasch stressed the Army won’t throw away its Iron Dome systems when IFPC comes online, but instead the service will continue to use the systems because it plans to ensure the batteries are interoperable with U.S. command-and-control capabilities.
The Army plans to field Iron Dome by the end of the year, but it will still take time to train troops on the system before deployment. Some lawmakers are urging the Army to rapidly deploy the systems to the Middle East, arguing U.S. and coalition forces there need the protection from Iran and its proxies.
As equipment to complete U.S. Iron Dome batteries arrived in Israel, American firm Raytheon Technologies and Israeli-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems have formed a joint venture to build the Iron Dome missile defense system in the United States.
Under the name Raytheon Rafael Area Protection Systems, the partnership is being set up to build a first-ever Iron Dome “all-up-round” facility stateside. The facility will build Iron Dome systems, the Tamir interceptor and launcher, and the SkyHunter missile (the U.S. version of Tamir).
Seth Frantzman, Defense News Israel-based correspondent, contributed to this report.