WASHINGTON — Israel is readying its Iron Dome for its first intercept test in the United States as part of the U.S. Army’s demonstration aimed at selecting an interim solution for a medium- and short-range air defense system.
The U.S. Army kicked off its SHORAD demonstration on Sept. 4 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, which allows the industry with available capabilities to test solutions that could be ready for fielding in the near term, the service has told Defense News. The demonstration will close out on Sept. 16.
The service identified a major gap in SHORAD capability, and there is an urgent operational need to fill that gap in the European theater.
The U.S. Army would not discuss which vendors came with what solutions but noted the service will analyze the offerings through acquisition and tracking tests and a live fire against unmanned aircraft systems and ground targets.
The full system test of the Iron Dome marks the first time the heavily U.S.-funded, Israeli-developed system will be operated outside Israel, where it has scored more than 1,500 intercepts against Gaza-launched threats since it was first deployed in 2011.
Developed by state-owned Rafael Ltd., the Iron Dome will face off against three other potential solutions, including a Boeing and General Dynamics Land Systems team that is offering its Maneuver SHORAD Launcher Stryker made up of a modernized Avenger air defense system on the back of the vehicle reconfigured to accommodate the system on a turret.
Rafael is partnered with Raytheon, which produces more than 50 percent of components for the Iron Dome’s Tamir intercepting missile in the United States. The jointly produced Tamir missile was demonstrated in April 2016 as part of the U.S. Army’s Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2-Intercept program, when it successfully intercepted a target drone after its launch from the service’s Multi-Mission Launcher.
If selected by the U.S. Army over other competitors, the Israeli government and industry sources say the system will become an entirely U.S. system, with Raytheon serving as the prime contractor and Rafael providing subcontractor support.
Rafael executives declined to comment on the upcoming test and referred all queries to the Defense Ministry. Moshe Patel, director of the MoD’s Israel Missile Defense Organization, referred Defense News to the Defense Ministry’s spokeswoman, who did not respond to requests for comment.
Since Iron Dome’s deployment in 2011, the system has been upgraded to render it effective against additional threats, including UAVs. In an interview with Strictly Security, a weekly defense program on the Israel-based i24news TV network, Rafael’s Ari Sacher said Iron Dome capabilities thus far proven in combat “don’t even come close” to the full extent of the system’s defensive capabilities against a spectrum of threats.
The Iron Dome system consists of the Rafael-developed launchers, each of which houses 20 Tamir interceptors; a multi-mission Elta radar by Israel Aerospace Industries; and a battle management and control system by Rafael and its mPrest subsidiary.
The U.S. Army has not yet laid out a timeline to procure an interim SHORAD solution following the demonstration at White Sands.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.