Marines Set to Make Iron Dome Battery Purchase from Israel

( – The United States Marine Corps has announced it plans to buy three batteries of Israel’s Iron Dome air defense missiles. The US Army already operates the system — but there are problems with it. Critics point out that it can’t integrate with the US Army’s existing air defense network.

Iron Dome is an Israeli-manufactured short-range air defense system, tailored to be most effective against artillery rockets and shells up to 155mm caliber. Part of its development costs were paid by the US, but the system was specifically designed to protect Israeli cities from rockets launched by Palestinian terrorists operating from Gaza and the West Bank.

A single battery of three or four 20-round launchers and a command system can protect an area of about 60 square miles from projectiles fired from up to 43 miles away. It can also target drones and some types of cruise missiles.

In 2019 the US Army bought two Iron Dome batteries and tested them at Fort Bliss, Texas, to see if they could be integrated into the Army’s new Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS), which brings together information from a range of sensors and automatically allocates the most effective weapon to deal with detected threats.

Unfortunately, it can’t be; while US and NATO air defense systems are designed to integrate with IBCS, Iron Dome uses a proprietary Israeli battle management system. It can’t be made to work with US systems unless Israel is given access to the source code.

Based on the trials, the US Army decided not to buy any more Iron Dome systems, but it’s complying with the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which ordered an Iron Dome system to be deployed to an operational theater by the end of 2021. A battery is now located on Guam, but the Army seems unenthusiastic about it and isn’t planning any more test firings as part of the “temporary, experimental” deployment.

Now, however, the USMC has announced plans to buy Iron Dome systems. The order is allegedly for three batteries but with a total of 44 launchers instead of the more normal 12. It’s likely the Marines want three command systems, meaning it can protect three locations with multiple launchers at each. They also plan to buy 1,840 of the Tamir interceptor missiles the system uses. As a standalone system, Iron Dome will give USMC bases good protection against rockets and artillery. However, manufacturer Rafael says it’s best as part of a “layered” air defense network — and while it can do that with Israel’s Barak-8 and David’s Sling systems, it can’t work together with the US Patriot missile system.

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