WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army will send to Guam one of the two Iron Dome air-and-missile defense batteries it recently purchased as an interim solution for cruise missile defense, according to an Oct. 7 statement from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command.
The deployment, dubbed Operation Iron Island, will test the capabilities of the system and further train and refine the deployment capabilities of air defenders, the statement notes. It will also fulfill the requirement in the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that an Iron Dome battery be deployed to an operational theater by the end of 2021.
Iron Dome will arrive in mid-October and the exercise will last through November, an Army spokesman confirmed.
The 94th AAMDC will oversee this “temporary, experimental deployment,” to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, according to the statement.
Soldiers and equipment from the 2-43 Air Defense Artillery Battalion from Fort Bliss, Texas, will deploy with the system. The unit has been training on it for the better part of a year. Soldiers from the 38th ADA Brigade will also come from Japan to support the mission.
The exercise is focused on “gathering data on sustainment, deployment considerations, and how we integrate Iron Dome with our existing air defense systems,” which, in this case, is the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense Battery that has been deployed to Guam since 2013, the spokesman said.
“There is currently no plan to conduct a live fire of the system while it is on Guam,” the statement said.
Iron Dome is manufactured by Israeli defense company Rafael and was co-developed by Raytheon Technologies. The Army bought the two Iron Dome systems at the request of Congress to fill the cruise missile gap while it develops a more enduring solution to counter a variety of air and missile threats.
The Army does not intend to buy more Iron Dome batteries, but instead could incorporate parts of the system into its indirect fires protection capability, which is being designed to defeat cruise missiles and drones as well as rockets, artillery and mortars.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.