WASHINGTON — Congress plans to scrap its requirement for the U.S. Army to procure two additional batteries of the Rafael-Raytheon developed Iron Dome air defense system as an interim cruise missile defense capability, a move for which the Army has been pushing.
The FY22 National Defense Authorization Act released this week, which has passed the House and will be taken up for a vote by the Senate next week, would eliminate the requirement in order to prioritize resources for the service to pursue an enduring Indirect Fires Protection Capability, or IFPC, system, according to a summary of the legislation.
IFPC is designed to defend fixed or semi-fixed sites from drones, cruise missiles and rockets, artillery and mortars.
The provision, according to the summary, “would not eliminate the requirement for the Army to deploy or forward station interim cruise missile defense capabilities,” a nod at Iron Dome systems already in the inventory.
The Army has already purchased, received and has been training air defenders on two Iron Dome batteries to fill a gap in cruise missile defense capability while the service works toward an enduring IFPC system.
One of the Iron Dome batteries has already deployed to Guam this fall. The deployment, dubbed Operation Iron Island, tested the capabilities of the system and further refined the training and deployment capabilities of air defenders from mid-October through November.
Congress, in its FY19 NDAA, required the Army to buy four interim cruise missile defense batteries. Lawmakers wanted two batteries selected and fielded by the end of FY21 and two subsequent batteries by Sept. 30, 2023, if an enduring system was not yet in place.
The Army has stressed in recent years that it needs funding and energy directed toward an enduring capability, not additional Iron Dome batteries.
The service finalized a $247 million contract in September with Leidos-owned Dynetics to build prototypes for its IFPC system to counter both drone and cruise missile threats. Defense News broke the news of that decision in August.
Dynetics will deliver 16 launchers, 60 interceptors and associated all-up round magazines to the Army over a performance period ending March 31, 2024.
The deal came after the service held a shoot-off that pitted Dynetics against a Rafael and Raytheon Technologies team.
Raytheon and Israel-based Rafael offered up the Iron Dome launcher and Tamir interceptor (known as SkyHunter in the U.S.), while Huntsville-based Dynetics brought Enduring Shield, featuring a launcher based on the Army’s internally developed, but later canceled, Multi-Mission Launcher, along with the Raytheon-produced AIM-9X Sidewinder interceptor.
The Army originally planned to develop and field its own multi-mission launcher as part of the enduring solution, but canceled that program in favor of finding a more technologically mature launcher.
Following the prototyping phase, the Army may initiate a follow-on production contract for 400 launchers and associated interceptors, according to the solicitation.
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 in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.